Evidence will show a Mineola landscaper beat a man to death in a Hempstead park last year just hours after threatening his life, a Nassau prosecutor told jurors Monday.
But an attorney for Marvin Yanez, 43, countered that his client wasn’t in the park that night, had retreated from an earlier argument with the victim and that police also never found the weapon used in the killing.
Yanez is on trial in Mineola on second-degree murder, assault and weapon possession charges in the October 2016 death of Luis Rustrian Estrada, 31, of Hempstead.
“There is no evidence to show my client is the person who committed this heinous crime,” Manhattan defense attorney Jacob Weinstein told Nassau County Court jurors.
But Assistant District Attorney Ania Pulaski said in her opening statement that Yanez “made good” on a promise when he killed Estrada on the night of Oct. 18, 2016 by inflicting blunt force trauma to his head.
That attack in Brierley Park, which left the victim with skull fractures and a brain bleed, followed an argument Yanez and Estrada had in the neighborhood close to the park at about 7:30 p.m., Pulaski said.
In that confrontation, Yanez and Estrada got into a fist fight before Yanez struck Estrada in one of his forearms with a hammer, according to the prosecutor.
She said one of the victim’s brothers will testify during the trial that he heard Yanez threaten Estrada’s life during that dispute by saying: “I’m going to kill you. You started this war. I’m going to finish it.”
Pulaski said another brother of the victim heard Yanez tell the victim he wasn’t going to fight him, but would “take out something and take out your guts” before retrieving an object in a pouch from his white pickup truck.
That brother tried to separate the two men, before the confrontation died down and Yanez sped off in his truck, according to the prosecutor.
Pulaski didn’t offer jurors any insight into what prompted Yanez and the victim to start fighting, and a district attorney’s office spokesman declined to comment later.
The prosecutor did say Estrada and his two brothers knew Yanez from the neighborhood and the victim had played soccer with Yanez in the past.
Pulaski said that shortly before midnight, one of the victim’s brothers called 911 from Brierley Park after friends woke him from a drunken slumber and alerted him that something was wrong with the victim, who bleeding from the head and unconscious on the ground by a nearby fence.
Pulaski said police arrested Yanez after he left his Mineola home on Nov. 9, 2016, and recovered items from his truck that included a hammer and a machete in a pouch. She conceded that DNA testing on those items yielded no incriminating results.
But the prosecutor said video surveillance footage of Yanez and his truck during the initial argument with the victim, and of Yanez entering and leaving the park on the night of the slaying – after driving his truck to the area – will help prove his guilt.
Weinstein countered that video footage from that night showed “an individual in a hood,” whose face wasn’t visible. He also said a witness in the park heard some sort of hitting sound before a figure in a dark sweatshirt fled on a bicycle, and that the videos didn’t show anyone on a bicycle.
The defense attorney added that the prosecution had no DNA or fingerprint evidence linking his client to the crime, and reminded jurors of his client’s presumption of innocence under the law.
Yanez faces up to 25 years to life in prison if jurors convict him of the murder charge.