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Man Held in Slaying at Ventura Mall

October 30, 2003|Lynne Barnes | Times Staff Writer

An Oxnard man has been arrested in the stabbing death of a 21-year-old Ventura man at a Pacific View Mall parking lot, authorities said Wednesday.

Bystanders told police they saw two men fighting in the lot near Telegraph Road in Ventura shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday.

One man ran across Telegraph Road and the second man, Hilario Casillas, ran to the witnesses and said he had been stabbed, then collapsed, authorities said.

With the help of a police dog, officers found Joseph Charles Zuniga, 22, hiding in a bathroom in a building on Telegraph Road and arrested him on suspicion of murder, Ventura Police Sgt. Sean Conroy said.

Casillas died during surgery at 5:40 p.m. Tuesday at Ventura County Medical Center, authorities said. Coroner's officials said he died from a stab wound to the chest.

Zuniga is a member of an Oxnard gang, Conroy said, but Casillas has not been linked to any gang.

The two apparently did not know each other, Conroy said. He said the confrontation began after a chance encounter.

Although there have been other gang confrontations at Pacific View, Conroy said the mall has excellent security and is the site of a Ventura Police Department storefront. No police are assigned to the storefront, Conroy said, but officers are often in the storefront writing reports or nearby on foot patrol.

Casillas' death was Ventura's third homicide of the year and the second in two days. A 21-year-old man was shot to death in his Emerald Street home Monday afternoon.

No arrests have been made in that case.

Tuesday's slaying was the 42nd in the county this year, compared with 23 all of last year.

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