After five weeks of testimony and deliberation, the double-murder trial of Soledad resident Armando Canchola ended with a hung jury late Wednesday. The jury was evenly split after a week and a half of deliberations.
The case has been problematic for prosecutors since Canchola, a member of the Norteno street gang, was charged with the separate Soledad murders of Victor Martinez, 25, and Cesar Alvarado Vasquez, 28. Both men were gang dropouts, according to testimony.
Canchola's criminal cases began in July 2008, and he has gone through several defense attorneys since.
The case will be retried, said Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon.
"It's a difficult case where at times witnesses were less than cooperative and were afraid," Brannon said.
Brannon believes it could be challenging to keep the witnesses available to testify, because of fears about gang retribution.
"We think he's extremely dangerous," Brannon said. "A lot of the witnesses were very afraid to testify and that's the case any time you have gang allegations."
Canchola's arrest was pointed to with pride by Soledad police, who have been criticized by residents after a string of shootings of older gang dropouts went unsolved.
Canchola was charged with two counts of murder, use of firearms, a street gang enhancement and dissuading a witness.
In 2008, Canchola was charged in the death of Vasquez, after Canchola turned himself in to the police the day after the slaying.
Officers found Vasquez bleeding from "what appeared to be a single gunshot wound to the head" at a residence in the 400 block of Aztlan Circle. He was unconscious but breathing when police arrived and was taken by helicopter to Mee Memorial Hospital in King City, where he was pronounced dead.
Charges for the Vasquez murder were dismissed before the preliminary hearing because of insufficient evidence, but were refilled in May 2011 based on new information.
In December 2010, Canchola was charged with shooting Martinez on Oct. 6.
Martinez, who was a passenger in a van stopped at Fourth Street, was killed when a man dressed in black ran up and fired shots through the window, according to a witness.
Soledad police detective Thomas Marchese testified in an earlier court hearing that four people saw the gunman before or after the attack on Martinez. One witness identified Canchola after pointing him out in a photo lineup.
An autopsy revealed Martinez was hit by two shots on the right side of his neck below his skull. The shots were fired a foot from Martinez, said pathologist John Hain.