POLICE NEWS | BLOG: SOUTH BAY CRIME, COURT NEWS | FACEBOOK
A video of a brutal fight that resulted in the death of a Redondo Beach bar bouncer was played in court Monday during a hearing for two men accused of his murder.
The video from the June 2 fight outside Pats II Cocktails on Pacific Coast Highway shows bar employee Terie Colecchi throwing the first punch, but the two men repeatedly punching and kicking him once he collapsed.
Bouncer Terie Colecchi was beaten to death at a Redondo Beach bar.
preliminary hearing in Torrance court, Judge Hector Guzman ruled Francisco Cobarruvias and Rene Anthony Avina must stand trial for murder in Colecchi's death.
Guzman said it was clear that Colecchi punched first and was on top of Cobarruvias as they battled, but they switched positions after several seconds and Cobarruvias was on top.
Avina, the video showed, kicked Colecchi in the head, and Cobarruvias then inflicted "seven very quick, violent blows to the victim's head," the judge said.
"The victim is motionless," Guzman said, raising his hands parallel to his head. "His hands are at his side.
Cobarruvias, 35, of Redondo Beach and Avina, 23, of Riverside are charged with beating Colecchi, 49, of Torrance
to death when the bouncer denied them entry to the bar at 1:40 a.m.
Cobarruvias and Avina, both regulars at the bar, surrendered to police in the following days.
During the three-hour proceeding, Cobarruvias' attorney, Jeffrey Gray, argued that Colecchi struck first and bit Cobarruvias on the hand.
Colecchi, Gray said, outweighed Cobarruvias by 100 pounds and was about 8 inches taller.
"I definitely believe my client worked and operated in complete self-defense," Gray said in an interview. "An atrocious felony was committed on my client when Colecchi bit him on the hand. My client only responded to the violence brought upon him by Mr. Colecchi."
None of the witnesses who testified Monday saw the actual fight. Bartender Karen Benjestorf told Deputy District Attorney Ethan Milius she saw Colecchi stop Cobarruvias and Avina from entering the bar and watched them step outside.
She looked at a video surveillance monitor behind the bar, saw a fight start and ran outside.
"I saw Frank on top of Terie, who was on the ground unconscious," she said. "(Cobarruvias) was standing over him."
Benjestorf said she screamed and pushed Cobarruvias away.
Pats II patron Trace Lankford said he noticed Colecchi block the men from entering the bar, and saw Colecchi push them outside.
Lankford said he settled his tab and walked outside, where he found Colecchi lying unconscious on the ground, his eyes swollen shut, blood running from his nose. He pushed Cobarruvias away from the bouncer.
Cobarruvias looked down at the bouncer and said, "Why did you make me do this?" Lankford said.
"It was a very odd thing to hear," Lankford said.
Gray and Avina's attorney, Christopher Glew, argued that their clients should not have been charged with murder, but with a lesser manslaughter count because the death occurred during an unplanned fight.
Guzman left that for a jury to decide.
Colecchi's cause of death also might play a role in the defense case. Redondo Beach police Detective Paul Ribitzki testified that an autopsy showed Colecchi suffered blunt force trauma, but the official cause of death has not been determined pending toxicological tests.
Testimony revealed a medical examiner found that Colecchi had an enlarged heart, a sign of possible drug use, and could have died from that condition.
Records show Colecchi had been convicted in the past of methamphetamine possession for sale.
"It's hard to say a fight could have caused his heart to be enlarged," Glew said.
Witness testimony also revealed that Cobarruvias was in the bar in November when two "skinheads" demanded he leave because he was Latino.
Cobarruvias asked Colecchi to escort him out of the bar to be safe. Colecchi said no.
Redondo Beach Detective Denise Brenner said Cobarruvias told his girlfriend he was upset.
"He was angry Terie would not have his back," she said.
Guzman ordered Cobarruvias held in jail on $2 million bail. Avina was held on $1 million bail.
Each must return to Torrance Superior Court on July 23 for arraignment. firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Larry Altman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/larryaltman