Justice Afoa Case: Suspects Delay Plea Entry

The three suspects arrested in connection to the 2010 slaying of a 17-year-old Newark student delayed their plea entry at their last court appearance.

The three suspects arrested in connection to the 2010 stabbing death of 17-year-old Justice Afoa have yet to enter a plea, according to officials.

Newark residents Rafael Tovar, 32 and Daniela Guzman, 19, along with Fremont resident Daniel Howard, 31, were assigned attorneys at their scheduled Monday court hearing, according to Deputy District Attorney Elgin Lowe.

All three will be represented by private attorneys and are scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 9 at 9 a.m. at the Hayward Hall of Justice in Dept. 502 for a scheduled plea entry, according to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office online database.

Guzman, Tovar and Howard all face charges of murder and felony conspiracy to commit murder with gang enhancements. Guzman, who was 17 at the time of the murder, will be tried as an adult. All three are members of Norteno gangs, according to the district attorney’s office.

In a complaint read in court during the trio’s first court appearance on Dec. 12, Tovar and Howard are suspected of stabbing Justice at least five times each. The complaint also alleges that all three conspired for months to kill the former Newark Memorial High School student after Justice had beaten up Tovar at a house party in September 2010.

According to Lowe, the suspected trio sent several text messages between Sept. 12 and Dec. 15, 2010 planning an attack on Justice, who was enrolled at Bridgepoint Continuation High School at the time of his murder. Guzman and Howard were said to have texted Justice’s whereabouts to Tovar several times during that span of time.

On Dec. 15, 2010, the day of Justice’s murder, Tovar and Howard exchanged calls 20 minutes before the fatal stabbing, according to the complaint. Howard drove from Fremont and arrived in Newark at 3:30 p.m. The murder was reported 10 minutes later.

Police responded to Cedar Boulevard at Birch Street around 3:40 p.m. and found the high school senior bleeding of apparent stab wounds. Justice, who was a defensive lineman on the Newark Memorial High School varsity football team, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Guzman and Tovar were arrested Dec. 10 after two of three suspects confessed to taking part in the 2010 stabbing, according to Newark Police Cmdr. Michael Carroll. Carroll did not comment on which suspects confessed.

Howard was re-arrested in connection to the 2010 slaying after he was interviewed by officers in jail, where he was being held on an attempted murder charge that stemmed from a Nov. 25 incident in Fremont.

Both Howard and Tovar have several prior felonies. 

All three suspects are being held at Santa Rita Jail on no bail.


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