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Valley man claims self-defense for murder of relative

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A man on trial for murdering his brother-in-law during a heated family fight says he was only trying to protect himself when he pulled the trigger.

Jack Varela faces charges of murder for the death of Daniel Cabrera last May. Both sides agree, Varela and Cabrera did not get along. Varela claims he called the police several times to report crimes Cabrera was involved in. The whole family got into a melee last memorial day when Varela is accused of killing his brother-in-law.

Varela lived in a garage with his wife last year at a home on Brawley Avenue near Shields Avenue.

The main house was filled with family members who according to police witnessed non-stop battles between Varela and Cabrera. Prosecutors say during the final fight Varela gave a warning before he grabbed a gun.

During opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Steve Wright told jurors Cabrera was tired of the suspect's dogs biting and barking at him. So, he retaliated by hitting and damaging some of Varela's cars. But defense attorneys say the bad blood involved way more than that.

Varela's Attorney Douglas Foster said, "Jack Varela has had a problem with Daniel Cabrera in the weeks leading up to this. Not about dogs, not about damages to cars, but about other things that are going on in this house."

Prosecutors say the suspect got a small tool and began hitting the victim until the metal baton broke.

Deputy District Attorney Steve Wright said, "He is hitting Mr. Cabrera in the head, over and over and over. Mr. Cabrera is bleeding, blood gushing from his head. You will be able to see the photographs."

After that, defense attorneys allege Cabrera grabbed a hammer and came toward Varela when he fired.

A day after the homicide, Varela's wife told action news her husband was only trying to protect her when he shot her brother. She claims she was getting dog piled by other family members when he brought out a gun.

In May 2012 Mary Varela, the suspect's wife said, "Even after I heard the gunshot, they were still on me, and they wouldn't get off me."

The first officer to arrive at the scene took the stand Friday. Officer Matthew Pantages said he pulled up to find the suspect talking on a cell phone and icing his wrists. He described his demeanor as calm. Nearby the victim was bent down bleeding after being shot once in the chest. Varela took notes during much of the morning, but he did wipe away tears when prosecutors showed pictures of the scene and the victim's lifeless body.

He's facing charges of first degree murder which carries a term of 2 to 5 years to life in prison.

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