A 24-year-old man was held to answer on charges of killing his girlfriend in a case where prosecutors say he immediately began working on a suicide cover-up story, court records show.
Nolan Hurd was ordered to stand trial on a charge of murdering 20-year-old Nikha Marcella DeGuzman in a shooting at Room 219 of the Good Nite Inn in Fremont. At Hurd’s August preliminary hearing, hotel guests testified to hearing an argument, followed by a shot, followed by a man screaming for “help” after about a minute went by.
As guests trickled out into a courtyard at the hotel, they witnessed DeGuzman frantically running from the room, with Hurd following her a few moments later, they testified. He began yelling for help and attempting to revive her, one woman said on the witness stand.
“I remember him crying. He was real hysterical,” Chanel Henderson, a guest in an adjacent room at the hotel, testified.
Henderson’s then boyfriend, Edgar Casillas, testified that Hurd “was just screaming, like, ‘No, she shot herself, why (did) you do it,’ stuff like that.”
But Fremont police Officer Marcus Rojas testified that as he responded to the shooting call, Hurd’s story that DeGuzman shot herself inside the hotel room “didn’t really add up.”
Fremont police Detective Brent Butcher testified that authorities abandoned that theory and began looking at it as a homicide after an autopsy found DeGuzman had been shot in the back of the head. DeGuzman died two days after the shooting.
Criminalists later determined that the bullet trajectory didn’t line up with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and Deputy District Attorney Michiye Vella called it a “ludicrous claim” belied by DeGuzman’s own attempts to run from the hotel room.
“She was trying to get away from her murderer,” Vella said.
Hurd’s lawyer, Adam Pennella, argued that DeGuzman could be heard saying in the background of a 911 call “I shot myself,” which Vella disputed. But he also argued that prosecutors failed to prove Hurd had “implied malice,” a legal requirement to prove a murder charge.
“He was beside himself, upset, scared for her, worrying, wanting to know if she was okay,” Pennella said. “All of this conduct is not consistent with, certainly, the intent to kill or implied malice. It’s all conduct that is consistent with somebody who does not want her to pass, does not want her to die.”
Before ordering Hurd to stand trial, Judge Toni Mims-Cochran didn’t comment directly on the evidence, but briefly mentioned that prosecutors have a low bar to advance a case past a preliminary hearing. Hurd’s trial date has not yet been set.