by defendant from judgments entered 1 September 2015 and 12
October 2015 by Judge Paul G. Gessner in Wake County Superior
in the Court of Appeals 1 November 2017.
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Danielle Marquis Elder, for the State.
Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate
Defender Michele A. Goldman, for defendant.
Jonathan Santillan appeals his convictions and sentences
stemming from a gang-related home invasion in which Santillan
and others murdered an innocent working couple. The victims
lived in a home once occupied by a rival gang member who was
the intended target. Santillan was fifteen years old at the
time of the crime.
explained below, the trial court's order denying
Santillan's motion to suppress fails to address a key
underlying fact: that a law enforcement officer communicated
with Santillan between the time Santillan invoked his right
to counsel and the time he agreed to waive his right to
counsel. Without findings acknowledging and addressing the
impact of that communication, this Court cannot meaningfully
review whether Santillan's waiver of his right to counsel
was voluntary. We therefore remand this issue to the trial
court for further proceedings. We reject the remainder of
Santillan's challenges to his convictions.
respect to Santillan's sentence, the State concedes that
the trial court failed to make sufficient findings to support
the two sentences of life without parole. We therefore vacate
those sentences and remand for a new sentencing hearing for
those convictions, if one is necessary after the trial court
resolves the issues concerning the suppression order.
and Procedural History
January 2013, Maria Saravia Flores and Jose Mendoza Flores
were shot to death in their home during a gang-related
attack. The attackers kicked in the couple's front door
and sprayed every room in the home with gunfire from an AK-47
rifle and a .45 caliber handgun. Mr. Flores was shot sixteen
times while lying on the couch and Ms. Flores was shot seven
times in the back and legs at the doorway to the kitchen.
couple were not the intended targets of the shooting. They
lived in a home previously occupied by a gang member named
"Sancho." Sancho had been the target of a previous
shooting by a rival gang member named "Trigger, "
who was accompanied by his brother, Moises, and two
teenagers, Isrrael Vasquez and Defendant Jonathan Santillan.
time of this earlier shooting, Sancho refused to provide much
information to law enforcement about his attackers. But after
reports of the Floreses' killings, Sancho contacted law
enforcement and told them he believed he was the intended
victim. He explained that he had lived at that residence a
year earlier, before the Floreses moved in, and
"Trigger" had visited him when he lived there. Law
enforcement contacted Trigger's girlfriend, who
identified Moises, Vasquez, and Santillan as Trigger's
associates, and informed police that they carried a .45
caliber handgun and an AK-47 rifle.
found Santillan and Vasquez in the attic of Vasquez's
house and arrested them. After searching the attic, law
enforcement also found an AK-47, a .45 caliber handgun, and
several rounds of .45 caliber ammunition. The .45 caliber
ammunition had scratch marks on the shell casings to obscure
identifying information, and those scratch marks matched
those found on casings at the Floreses' home and the
earlier shooting involving Sancho.
January 2013, officers interrogated Santillan in four
separate interviews over an eight-hour period. At the time,
Santillan was fifteen years old. Santillan initially denied
his involvement in both the Sancho shooting and the
Floreses' killings, but later confessed to being present
at the Sancho shooting. Santillan denied any involvement in
the Floreses' killings, but he gave a detailed
description of the murders and made a sketch of the
Floreses' home based on information he claimed to have
learned from Moises. Law enforcement videotaped each of the
State indicted Santillan on two counts of first degree
murder, conspiracy to commit murder, first degree burglary,
conspiracy to commit burglary, and possession of a firearm
with altered serial number. At trial, the State sought to
admit Santillan's videotaped interrogation and his sketch
of the Floreses' home into evidence. Santillan moved to
suppress this evidence on the ground that it was obtained in
violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. The trial court
denied the motion.
Santillan's objection, the trial court also admitted rap
lyrics found in a notebook in Santillan's room. The
lyrics describe someone "kick[ing] in the door" and
"spraying" bullets with an AK-47.
jury convicted Santillan on all charges. The trial court
sentenced him to two consecutive sentences of life without
parole and other, lesser sentences. Santillan timely
Santillan's Motion to Suppress
first challenges the denial of his motion to suppress,
arguing that the trial court's order lacks key findings
concerning law enforcement's communications with him
after he invoked his right to counsel. As explained below, we
agree that the trial court's order did not address key
factual issues and we therefore remand for the trial court to
review of a trial court's denial of a motion to suppress
is "strictly limited to determining whether the trial
judge's underlying findings of fact are supported by
competent evidence, in which event they are conclusively
binding on appeal, and whether those factual findings in turn
support the judge's ultimate ...