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Merenda claims he attempted suicide after stabbing man to death

POSTED October 7, 2011 9:15 p.m.

The fate of a Turlock man accused of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of a Hughson father and youth football coach, now rests with 12 jurors.

Darren Merenda is on trial for the 2009 death of 34-year-old Donald Futch. The trial concluded Thursday and deliberations began Thursday afternoon, with no verdict returned.

Around 3:30 a.m. Sept. 12, 2009, Merenda and Futch agreed to meet in the parking lot of a Colorado Avenue apartment complex to talk about Merenda continuing to text Brooke Barker, who was currently dating Futch and had dated Merenda in the past. The discussion turned into a fight that led to the stabbing.

In the last days of the trial Merenda took the stand in an attempt to explain his actions and motivations that night. During his testimony he revealed the shocking information that he was attempting to kill himself in the moments after the fatal encounter and was stopped by his roommate.

Merenda said he had started drinking heavily after the end of his relationship with Barker. At one point he sent Barker a text reading, “I’m having a hard time with you loving someone else.”

He also stated he was having financial difficulties, which is why he was trying to get back a gift of $500 he had given Barker. It was during one of those attempts to get the money back that Merenda said Barker threatened “to sic Donnie on him.”

Merenda also testified that he had heard from multiple people Futch was a cage fighter, though that turned out to be inaccurate information.

When questioned by his attorney Saul Garcia about why he took a knife with him that night, Merenda said he slipped the knife into his pocket because he was scared of Futch and thought he could “use it to scare him or possibly defend” himself.

Merenda testified he agreed to meet Futch in the parking lot because he wanted to “smooth it over” with him.

Merenda testified Futch grew angry with him and told him to move into the alley. He said Futch “lunged at him,” grabbed him and hit him in the head, which is when he pulled out his knife.

Merenda testified he was swinging the knife when the two men tripped and fell.

“When you were stabbing Donnie, what was going through your head?” Garcia asked.

“I wanted him off me,” Merenda answered.

Merenda said he remembered getting up and seeing Futch slump down. He testified he felt “hysterical” at that point and flung the knife. The knife was found on the other side of the alley.

Futch died from massive blood loss from 11 stab wounds.

Immediately after the stabbing Merenda said he ran back up to his apartment and grabbed a bolt-action rifle from out of his closet.

“Why did you get the gun?” Garcia asked.

“I was getting it to shoot myself,” Merenda said.

“Why were you trying to shoot yourself?” Garcia asked.

“Because I knew I had done something wrong,” a sobbing Merenda said.

Merenda said it was his roommate Pete De La Cruz who came in and took the gun from him.

De La Cruz was subpoenaed as a witness but the serviceman was not sent stateside by the army before the trail’s conclusion.

The jury is expected to resume deliberations Tuesday.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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