Jurors begin deliberations in murder trial at Clovis nightclub

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Clovis Police secure the scene of a fatal shooting at The Palace bar in Clovis, Calif. on Saturday, May 22, 2021.

Fresno Bee File

Eddie Cordero, the 26-year-old Fresno man on trial for double murder in the deaths of two men at a Clovis nightclub, declined to testify on his own behalf on Monday as the prosecution rested their case against him.

The jury in Cordero’s trial began deliberating around 4 p.m. Monday and will resume Tuesday.

Cordero is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for allegedly shooting 21-year-old Merehildo Luna of Fresno and 27-year-old Andres Sanchez of Sanger at Palace Nightclub in Old Town Clovis on May 22, 2021.

Clovis police say the killings were sparked by a verbal argument inside the club.

If convicted, Cordero faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. When Judge Arlan Harell asked him if he wanted to testify in his own defense, Cordero refused.

His attorney, Jonathan Richter, told the judge that he and Cordero discussed it.

The final witness in Cordero’s trial was Dr. Venu Gopal, the county’s chief medical examiner. Senior Assistant District Attorney Elana Smith asked Gopal to describe to the jury the fatal injuries sustained by Luna and Sanchez. Both were shot several times in the upper and lower parts of their bodies.

One of the bullets, allegedly fired by Cordero, passed through Luna’s left wrist and into her chest. Another bullet hit him in the back and exited through the chest.

In the nightclub’s surveillance video that night, Luna is seen fleeing to the back of the club as Cordero begins firing. Luna died on the club floor.

Sanchez was also shot several times, including in the back of his left arm and the left side of his back. He was still alive when emergency medical services arrived. He was taken to the Community Regional Medical Center where he later died.

Smith also presented one final exhibit for the jury to consider when they begin to discuss the case. It was a recording of a prison phone call between Cordero and his sister. The 16-minute call took place shortly after Cordero’s preliminary hearing on November 8, 2021.

During the phone call, Cordero is angry at the testimony of Angel Mejia who said that Cordero was a hothead who had a tendency to lose his temper. He was also upset that Mejia pointed the finger at him when the prosecutor asked him to identify Cordero.

“He was on the witness stand and he was pointing at me, it was on Zoom and everything,” Cordero said in the recorded phone call. “Everyone was watching this shit.”

Mejia and two others were with Cordero that night at the club, but left after the verbal altercation between Cordero and Luna. Mejia testified that he took Cordero home, but the accused and his roommate returned to confront Luna and Sanchez at the club.

This time, Cordero was reportedly armed with a 9mm handgun. CCTV from the club shows Cordero approaching the club’s front door with a gun in his belt. The footage shows him taking a few steps inside the club, looking at Sanchez and Luna and shooting.

After the shooting, Cordero and his roommate Anthony Guzman fled to Arizona where they were arrested about a month later and returned to Fresno.

Guzman did not contest two counts of harboring, concealing or aiding another person who committed a crime. He was sentenced to three years in Fresno County Jail.

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A Valley native, Robert has worked at The Fresno Bee since 1994, covering a variety of topics including education, business and agriculture. It currently covers the courts.

Elna M. Lemons