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1989 cold case heads to trial
Victim found stabbed to death off Stoddard Wells Road
VICTORVILLE • A man accused of murdering a driver who gave him a ride in 1989 is headed to trial, after advancement in fingerprint technology led to his arrest last year.
After a preliminary hearing Wednesday morning, Victorville Superior Court Judge Debra Harris ruled there was enough evidence to believe 48-year-old Ruben Abad committed the crime. Preliminary hearings are held for judges to decide whether the prosecution has sufficient evidence to hold defendants for a jury trial.
The body of the 56-year-old victim, Herbert Santos, was found on March 21, 1989, in a dirt area off of Stoddard Wells Road north of Dante Street in Victorville. His pants and underwear had been removed, testified Michael Leniham, a retired detective who investigated the crime scene.
Santos died from three stab wounds to his torso, according to the autopsy results. San Bernardino County Sheriff's investigators found a drag mark, a knife and blood near the crime scene.
The victim’s 1978 Mercury Marquis was found in Hollywood with blood and fingerprints inside. But the prints didn’t match anyone in the sheriff's computer system at the time, Deputy District Attorney John Thomas said.
Then in December 2009, sheriff's examiners discovered the fingerprints belonged to Anthony Christopher Solis, Thomas said. Solis, 46, is serving life terms in state prison after he was convicted of murders in a separate case in Santa Barbara County, Detective Ryan Ford said.
The sheriff's Cold Case Unit reopened the case and discovered that some palm prints belonged to Abad. His finger and palm prints were entered into the system after he was arrested for driving under the influence in Bakersfield, Ford said.
Ford interviewed Solis at the Chino state prison in November. Solis initially did not release details but later began talking, Ford said.
Solis and Abad were both attending a sober living program near Los Angeles in March 1989, Solis said, according to Ford’s testimony. They were from the same area and decided to hitchhike together.
They bought alcohol and were sitting on a bench when Santos passed by and picked them up, Solis said.
Solis took over as the driver after a while, and when Santos woke up, the victim began swinging a wine bottle at Solis and hit him in the face, according to Solis. Abad then stabbed Santos from the back seat with a knife, Solis said.
Solis stopped the car in a remote area and the three got out. Abad went up to Santos and stabbed him until the victim fell to the ground, Solis said. Abad and Solis fled the scene and left the victim’s car in Hollywood, according to Solis.
Ford contacted Abad at the defendant’s house in Bakersfield. Abad said he didn’t know Santos and he never touched the victim’s car. The defendant discontinued the interview before detectives arrested him.
The victim’s sister said Santos lived in La Puente with his family in 1989 and was planning to move to Las Vegas to work as a chef, according to Ford.
Abad is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 15 for arraignment. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years to life in prison.
The District Attorney’s office will charge Solis with murder when he is ready to be transferred to county jail from prison, Thomas said.
Tomoya Shimura may be reached at (760) 955-5368 or TShimura@VVDailyPress.com. Follow Tomoya on Facebook at facebook.com/ShimuraTomoya.
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