Trial begins in Wilmer nightclub shootings
By GARY McELROY
Witnesses testified at Miguel Samaniego-Lopez's murder trial Monday that as the Mexican national emerged from a Wilmer nightclub last year he was shoved, then pulled a gun and started firing.
Samaniego-Lopez faces two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the Sept. 30, 2000, shooting in the parking lot of the Country Club Lounge at 11731 Moffett Road in northwest Mobile County.
Daniel Phillip Pettus, 30, and Christopher Neal, 29, were each shot at least once in the stomach, suffering almost identical damage. Each died shortly afterward, a forensic witness testified Monday before Mobile County Circuit Judge James Wood.
Neal's brother, Craig Christian, 42, was wounded in the shoulder and recovered.
Assistant District Attorney George Hardesty Jr. told jurors in an opening statement that Samaniego-Lopez fled the scene after the shooting and was later found by police hiding between two beds in his trailer home near Semmes.
A .38-caliber revolver was found lying beneath a bloody shirt, Hardesty said.
Hardesty told jurors that the night of the shooting some men at the club encouraged Samaniego-Lopez to leave and had escorted him out when he turned and started firing.
Samaniego-Lopez's Mobile attorney Dom Soto described the club as a blue-collar dive» where only hours before another Mexican national had been beaten because he had asked a white woman to dance.»
Soto, referring to Hardesty's opening remarks, asked: What kind of encouragement» did his client receive as he was exiting the club? He said Samaniego-Lopez shot in self-defense.
Ashley and Mark Brech, who were outside the club when the shooting started, said they saw one man shove Samaniego-Lopez.
They testified the defendant drew his gun as he wheeled around and began firing.
Samaniego-Lopez was in the United States working in a government-sponsored migrant worker program, Soto said, and was employed at a Wilmer plant nursery. The defendant cannot speak English. A translator spoke to him in low tones as the trial proceeded.
Testimony was expected to resume today at 9 a.m. in Wood's sixth-floor courtroom in Government Plaza.
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