On the morning of July 23, 2013, Robin Boyer fired a round from his shotgun that struck 25-year-old Brandon Pacheco and ended his life. That fact is undisputed in Boyer's trial, but what is at question is whether or not Boyer's actions were a justifiable accident as the defense claims, or whether it was as the prosecution alleges — murder.
That is the question the jury will have to decide as they began hearing testimony in the case on Tuesday.
Boyer, 62, is facing charges of murder and two felony counts of assault with a firearm for the death of Pacheco.
The Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office contends that Boyer was frustrated by ongoing thefts at his property and acted with a level of indifference that resulted in Pacheco's death.
"Robin Boyer was tired of being stolen from," Deputy District Attorney John Mayne told the jury during opening statements Tuesday morning. "He was angry and he decided Brandon Pacheco had stolen his last old car battery.
"His anger boiled over and he pulled the trigger," Mayne continued.
Defense attorney Kirk McCallister told the jury his client's actions were not done out of frustration and anger, but rather out of fear for his family's safety.
"It wasn't about old batteries," McCallister told the jury. "These were working people...They were all going to have to go back to work except one — Hazel Boyer — Robin Boyer's mother. He was worried about her with this brazen burglar.
"It wasn't about batteries," McCallister continued. "It was about the protection of the family."
The two properties belonging to the Boyer family in the 1100 block of Dianne Drive in Turlock had been the scene of recent thefts and in some of those thefts family members saw a man speeding away from the properties on a motorbike.
The day before the fatal encounter the family had returned home from the funeral of Boyer's father and witnessed a man speed off the property on a motorbike, said Boyer's brother-in-law Richard Haile, who testified Tuesday morning. Haile said they suspected this was the thief and they tried to follow him but lost sight of him.
The following day, shortly before 8 a.m. Boyer spotted the same man on his property arranging batteries in an old Radio Flyer wagon. Boyer went back into his home and retrieved his shotgun and a cellphone and went back out to confront the man.
In an audio interview between Boyer and Turlock Police Detective Brandon Bertram conducted after the shooting and played in the courtroom on Tuesday, Boyer told the detective he got his shotgun because he "wanted to scare the hell out of him."
In the audio interview, Boyer says he confronted Pacheco on the dirt berm next to the property and that Pacheco told him "I'm not thieving." Boyer told the detective he ordered Pacheco to get on the ground, but that Pacheco ignored him and attempted to ride away on the motorbike.
The defense claims that Pacheco was behaving as if he was high on some narcotic during this encounter and that Boyer was fearful for his own safety, especially when Pacheco was revving the motorbike as he faced Boyer.
Boyer said he fired one shot that hit the ground near Pacheco's feet.
"I fired one on the ground so he knew I meant business, though I didn't really," Boyer said to Bertram in the audio interview.
Prior to Boyer firing the second shot Pacheco had gotten the motorbike turned around and was facing away from Boyer. The prosecution stated that the wagon with the batteries was weighing the motorbike down and this was hampering Pacheco from leaving the area.
Boyer told the detective in the audio interview that he fired the second shot believing he was shooting well above Pacheco. Then he said he saw Pacheco slump over.
Boyer told the detective that "I didn't mean to hit him."
Boyer described returning back to his family and telling them he believed he had shot the man. Boyer's wife was the individual who called 911 and reported the shooting.
Pacheco was struck in the back and the back of his head by five of the nine shotgun pellets. Emergency medical technicians were called to the property, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The prosecution contends Boyer had a good idea of where he was aiming for the second shot and plans on presenting an expert witness to testify to the patterns of shotgun pellets.
Testimony is scheduled to resume today.