Man Convicted of Killing Co-Worker in Tustin In 2003

Empty Chairs And Tables In Courtroom

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SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 63-year-old man was convicted today of gunning down a co-worker outside of the victim's home in Tustin in 2003.

Juan Antonio Palacios was convicted of second-degree murder with a sentencing enhancement for the use of a firearm in the Jan. 5, 2003, killing of 32-year-old Mario Cano Santamaria.

Palacios and Santamaria worked together as security guards at Salon Guadalajara, 1436 S. Main St. in Santa Ana, when they got into a dispute over money, prosecutors said in a trial brief. The owner called Palacios in about 11:30 p.m. Jan. 4, 2003, to pay him $60 for the night and then asked him to leave so he could pay Santamaria, prosecutors said.

Palacios refused to leave because he thought the boss shorted him, and as they were arguing the victim walked into the office, prosecutors said.

Santamaria said he should get the $60 because Palacios owed him that much money, which triggered an argument over the loan, prosecutors said.

Palacios angrily crumpled up the cash and threw it on the floor and the victim picked it up and pocketed it, prosecutors said.

Their boss told them to both get out, and the two continued their argument, but Palacios stopped and they parted ways, prosecutors said.

The victim went home to his apartment at 15631 Tustin Village Way where he lived with his wife and their three children, one who was an infant and the others who were 10 and 9 years old at the time. The children had friends over for a sleepover as well, prosecutors said.

Palacios asked a friend for a ride over to the victim's home to get his money back and knocked on the window, prompting Santamaria to answer the door, prosecutors said.

Palacios yanked Santamaria outside and shot him and ran to the Chevrolet Suburban where his friends were waiting and said, ``Let's go,'' prosecutors said.

Palacios threatened to kill his friend if he said anything and fled to Mexico, prosecutors said. He was extradited from El Salvador in May 2018. The victim's wife heard the gunshots and found her husband bleeding to death in the courtyard, prosecutors said.

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