By Jessica King
Two alleged parole violators were being held without bail in the South Bay after each pleaded not guilty to murdering former Ramona resident Michael Gabriel Hallmann.
Francisco Jose Arellano, 32, of Chula Vista, and Michael Vincent Reyes, 29, of El Cajon, allegedly got into a fight with Hallmann during a social gathering of some kind in San Diego’s Chollas Creek neighborhood and killed him last September. Both defendants were scheduled to return to court on Friday for a readiness conference in advance of a preliminary hearing set for Wednesday. The hearing will determine whether the defendants should stand trial.
“Our reaction is, obviously, very, very grateful to all the detectives who have been working very hard to bring justice to our brother,” said Hallmann’s sister, Claudia Shohara. “Obviously it doesn’t bring him back but it’s something.”
Hallmann, a 34-year-old Class of 1997 Ramona High graduate, was stabbed repeatedly the morning of Sept. 30. He was found mortally wounded in front of a home in the 5000 block of Sterling Court shortly after 5:30 a.m. and pronounced dead at a hospital about an hour later, SDPD homicide Lt. Ernie Herbert said.
Though police have said the three men apparently got into a fight, the official motive remained under investigation and there was doubt about the alleged fight among Hallmann’s family.
“From our point of view, we don’t think that he was in a fight because it just was not in his nature, he wasn’t confrontational like that — it wasn’t him — but as far as motive goes, we still just don’t know and we’re waiting for the detectives to tell us more as they continue their investigation,” said Shohara.
To drum up new leads in the homicide investigation, Hallmann’s family held a candlelight vigil at the Ramona soccer fields on Dec. 5.
Hallmann’s mother, Jennifer Hallmann, speculated at the vigil that her son may have been at the wrong place at the wrong time, noting robbery was ruled out as a possible motive and Hallmann had no defensive wounds.
The vigil took on a bittersweet tone as the family learned just hours before the gathering that Reyes had been arrested and more arrests were possible.
San Diego police kept mum on the arrest until last week, when they announced that on Dec. 17, two alleged parole violators already in custody had been re-booked on suspicion of murder. Police also released the identities of the suspects for the first time; however, they continued to withhold what led them to Reyes and Arellano, and offered no official theory about the motive. They also withheld the nature and exact location of the social gathering where the men allegedly fought.
On a public memorial Facebook page for Hallmann, one poster responded to last week’s news with simply, “finaly (sic) some justice!!!” Another called it a priceless Christmas gift.
Online jail records showed Reyes was initially booked into the South Bay Detention Facility in Chula Vista the afternoon of Dec. 5, while Arellano was booked into the same jail the following night.
Though he grew up in Ramona, Hallmann – known as “Gabe” to his family and friends – last lived and worked as a licensed massage therapist in the city of San Diego. He was survived by his 4-year-old daughter. Through Mission Federal Credit Union, the Hallmann family started a donation fund for her.
Hallmann was a standout soccer player while at Ramona High. Plans for an RHS soccer alumni game were in the works to raise additional money for Hallmann’s daughter’s donation fund.
Shohara said the game would be played some time next month.