A defense attorney and prosecutor offered vividly conflicting descriptions of a man accused of conspiring to murder an Oak Harbor teenager last month.
David Nunez Jr., 19, appeared in court Monday afternoon for a hearing on his attorney’s motion, which was ultimately unsuccessful, to allow his client to be released from jail on bail.
Nunez and his three other co-defendants — Derek Reeder, 16, Kitana Hernandez, 19, Brian Rayford, 20, — are facing first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of 17-year-old North Whidbey resident John “Jay” Johnson. They all have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The alleged motive for the shooting, according to investigators, is that Nunez was upset with Johnson over a $400 impound fee.
In court Monday, Nunez appeared as a forlorn figure in orange as he stood beside his attorney, Jon Ostlund of Anacortes.
Ostlund offered a different perspective on Nunez than appears in court documents. He described Nunez as “caring, responsible and hardworking.” He pointed out that the young man, a graduate of Oak Harbor High School, doesn’t have a criminal history and is supported by a strong network of family and friends.
He referred to a series of about 10 letters from people in the community who offered character references for Nunez.
Brian Jones, president of the Oak Harbor Rotary and a football coach, wrote that he has known Nunez for years and that the young man “is hard-working, honest and considerate of others” but also “loyal to a fault.”
“Knowing David and having so many conversations with him, I am sure he never intended to be a part of the events which led to the death of Mr. Johnson,” he wrote.
Nunez’s mother, Holli Johnson, wrote that her son has a huge heart, that he volunteered to coach youth football, to help animals at the shelter and that he bought food and toys to donate to the less fortunate. He is kind and responsible with his younger siblings, according to Johnson.
Nunez has worked several different jobs in the community since he was 16 and was planning on going to a college for auto mechanics, his mother wrote.
Ostlund also presented a different perspective on some of the allegations against Nunez outlined in the police reports. He said Nunez borrowed the alleged murder weapon from a friend because he felt threatened, but that Rayford held onto the pistol.
He also said that Nunez did not send a text message demanding that witnesses remain silent or refer to them as “loose ends,” as stated in the police report. Ostlund said that Rayford borrowed Nunez’s phone and sent the texts.
Ostlund suggested that Nunez could be held “under house arrest” at his uncle’s house if released on bail. Nunez and Rayford are both being held without bail.
On the other side, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Ohme presented a troubling picture of the young man known by so many.
“The evidence indicates that there’s another side to Mr. Nunez that the court should be concerned about,” he said.
He said that Nunez told a witness just prior to the shooting that it was “about to go down” while pointing his finger like a gun and adding “pop pop.”
Ohme referred to supplemental police reports filed Monday. The report states that Nunez and Rayford exchanged Facebook messages about 12 hours after the shooting; Nunez admitted to throwing the gun into the water off West Beach and they both made plans to return to look for it during low tide.
In another exchange, Rayford wrote that it was time “to tie lose [sic] ends” and Nunez replied, “Yuup this weekend.”
The reports allege that Nunez was “actively engaged in narcotics trafficking” based on Facebook records and text messages. A detective wrote that the transactions were mainly for marijuana but included such prescription pills as Percocet, Vyvanse and Adderall.
In the end, Judge Vickie Churchill ruled that Nunez presents a danger to the community and to the witnesses in the case; she ordered that he continue to be held in jail without bail.