SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A change of venue motion has been denied in one of the biggest murder cases in recent Santa Maria history.
Next month marks the one year anniversary of the alleged killing of Anthony Ibarra in a Santa Maria home.
The nine men and women charged in the case returned to court Friday afternoon.
News cameras are not allowed inside Santa Maria Juvenile Hall court where the Ibarra case is being held to accommodate the large number of defendants and their attorneys.
11 people were originally charged in the alleged kidnapping, torture and murder of Ibarra in March of last year, his body found in the back of U-Haul truck.
Two defendants, Carmen Cardenas and Pedro Torres, have since accepted plea deals and are currently serving three year prison sentences for being accessories to murder after the fact.
The remaining nine defendants are all charged with murder in grand jury indictments.
Unsealed court documents in the case reveal the prosecution contention that all of the remaining Ibarra defendants knowingly participated in the planned kidnapping, and ultimate torture and murder of Ibarra nearly one year ago.
The alleged motive is unpaid drug debts.
Friday afternoon Judge Rick Brown denied a defense request to move the case to another city or county, contending pre-trial publicity has tainted the local jury pool.
The judge also denied defense motions to set aside evidence in the case.
"Three of the defendants had filed motions pursuant to Penal Code section 995 ", says Santa Barbara County Assistant District Attorney Ann Bramsen who is prosecuting the case, "995 is a motion to set aside the information, essentially its saying there's not enough evidence for the Grand Jury to bound them over for indictment for trial."
The Ibarra defendants return to court March 14 and are expected to stand trial in May.
All nine defendants remain in custody in Santa Barbara County jail.