Justice delayed

Woman charged with murder 5 years ago and still no trial

Justice Delayed

INDIO, Calif. - Five years ago 40-year old Howard Villanueva was stabbed to death in the Palm Springs home of 19-year old Candace Duran.   Police say, the day of the murder, Duran confessed to killing Villanueva.  She was arrested and charged. 

Duran, a member of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, was held on a one million dollar bond.  Five days later she posted bail and walked out of the Indio Jail.

Janet Villenueva, the victim's sister asks, "Why was she just given a kiss on the wrist and sent away?" 

The victim's family is frustrated with the county justice system.  In the five years since Duran was charged with murder she's been arrested seven more times. 

Nineteen new cases have been filed against her.  The charges stem from felony possession of controlled substances, DUI charges, traffic citations and robbery.  She never spent any more time in jail. 

Margie Villanueva, Howard's mom says she is getting sick.  She says the whole thing is stressful, she needs to go to the doctor all the time.  She drives from Cabazon to Indio every time there is a hearing on the case.  That's 47 times in the past five years.  She's tired, but says she and her family will continue to show up to be a voice for Howard even if it means missing work.

There have been so many delays and continuances in the case since 2007.  In June of this year a bench warrant was issued to arrest Duran because she did not show up for court on a drug possession charge.  Duran continued to miss hearings on other cases, six in fact, including a hearing on the murder case.  Duran was arrested at the and of July, booked into the Indio Jail with no bail. 

The Villanueva family believes that because she is an Agua Caliente tribal member, she is getting preferential treatment.  John Hall of the District Attorney's office says that's simply not true. 

In a statement he says, "The suggestion that delays in the Candace Duran case have happened because of the defendant's status or affiliation with anyone or any group is unfortunate and is completely false.  The delays in her case have occurred due to her changes in attorneys, including one necessitated by the death of her defense counsel, and importantly, her absconding, her committing new crimes and her failure to appear in court. The District Attorney's office is committed to attaining justice in this case, as we are in all cases we prosecute.  We are confident, now that the defendant is in custody that the case will come to a just conclusion as quickly as possible." 

At the last hearing, the judge instructed the attorney's for both parties to be ready to go November 1st.  Duran's current attorney Dean Benjamini says they're set for trial. Howard's family says they're ready for it all to come to an end. Janet says she wants her mom to be ready to rest. She wants to be able to go to the cemetery with family and not be in tears.

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