A man suspected in the killing of an off-duty bus driver at a San Diego doughnut shop eight years ago is now facing charges in the cold case, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) confirmed Wednesday.
SDPD investigators said Santiago Covarrubias, 40, will face murder charges in the 2007 killing of Damon Green, 38. Covarrubias had already been serving time in state prison for another unrelated homicide when cold case detectives received information linking him to the murder case. The SDPD said Covarrubias is now in custody at San Diego Central Jail and will appear in court on Monday.
Covarrubias is the second suspect to be linked to this case this year – a case that had been cold for more than eight years.
On July 28, San Diego resident Martin Villalpando, 36, was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in south San Diego as he legally entered the U.S., and jailed on first-degree murder in connection with Green’s killing.
At his arraignment, Villalpando pleaded not guilty. A judge set his bail at $2 million. He has been in custody at the South Bay Detention Facility for four months and is slated to appear in court on Dec. 17.
According to investigators, Green was found critically injured behind the Donuts Plus shop at 4090 El Cajon Blvd. at around 2:30 a.m. on Mar. 20, 2007. He had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his torso and was taken to a local hospital where he died about an hour later.
Detectives believe Green and a friend were eating at a taco shop next door to the doughnut shop when Green got into an argument with Villapando and Covarrubias.
Villalpando and Covarrubias then left the taco shop. About 10 minutes later, as Green and his friend were leaving, Villapando and Covarrubias returned.
Now armed with a gun, the suspects confronted Green outside the doughnut shop and opened fire. As Green ran into the doughnut shop seeking cover, detectives said shots were fired through a plate glass window, fatally wounding Green.
The suspects fled the scene before officers arrived. The pair was last seen on northbound 41st Street.
After Villalpando’s arrest over the summer, Tom Manning, Deputy District Attorney Supervisor of the Cold Case Homicide Unit, said cold case detectives had been actively working on this case for years and had been in contact previously with Villapando regarding Green’s murder.
“The police have had continuous contact with witnesses, including Mr. Villalpando over the years. He knew San Diego Police detectives were continuing on the case and were also looking at him over the last few years,” Manning said.
If convicted, Villalpando faces 50 years to life in prison.
For Green’s mother, Sybil Green, news of an arrest in her son’s cold case over the summer brought a wave of emotions.
Sybil said the day her son was killed was the day her “heart died” and, despite the years, her family continues to feel the pain of their loss.
“You murder one person, but you slaughter a family because our family has not been the same since,” Sybil said.
Green’s family now lives in Las Vegas. Sybil said she has always refused to believe her son’s killer would get away with murder, and she’s looking forward to getting justice for her son, whom she refers to as her “gentle giant.”
Sybil said Green is survived by two sons and a daughter.