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Teenage murder suspects arraigned

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Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2003 10:00 pm

STOCKTON - The two teenagers being held for the weekend murder of a Lodi couple could receive the death penalty if found guilty of all charges, Deputy District Attorney Lester Fleming said after a Wednesday court appearance.

Clad in red jail jumpsuits, Joel Angel Magana, 19, and Christopher Howard Jones, 18, both of Lodi, were arraigned Wednesday in a crowded Stockton courtroom where they did not enter pleas.

Wearing shackles and accused of murder, Joseph Magana, left, and Christopher Jones lower their heads as criminal charges are read to them during their arraignment Wednesday in Superior Court in Stockton. (Jerry Tyson/News-Sentinel)

Each is charged with two counts of murder, one count of conspiracy, one count of home invasion robbery and one count of residential burglary, Judge James E. Hammerstone told them Wednesday.

Hammerstone asked each of them if they understood their rights and the charges against them, and both answered with a one-word answer: "Yes."

The two were taken into custody for questioning Sunday, after a neighbor found Kevin Leroy Dahnke, 23, and his wife, Sabrina Guadalupe Dahnke, 24, lying face down on the living room floor of their East Morse Road home, San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Nellie Stone said.

The couple had been shot to death. Magana and Jones were arrested early Monday morning, Stone said.

Inside the Dahnke home, detectives found at least one potato that had been used as a handgun silencer, Fleming said.

"It appears that there were two different guns at the scene," Fleming said, though investigators are waiting for gunshot residue tests.

Family members of the victims filled the front two rows of the Stockton courtroom Wednesday. Wearing white T-shirts printed with pictures of the couple, some family members cried quietly.

Separated from them by a frosted glass wall, Jones sat erect while Magana leaned forward until the judge called them forward and asked what they intended to do with their cases.

"I already have a lawyer," Magana said.

Jones was appointed a public defender.

Their wrists cuffed to a chain around the waist, the two suspects were soon ushered from the courtroom and taken to the county jail in French Camp, where they are being held without bail. They will appear in court again Friday for further arraignment, Hammerstone said.

Though the two are not considered a danger, they wore red "high risk" clothing because of the notoriety of the case, Stone said.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, Deputy Public Defender Elvira Lua talked with Jones' family as one female family member sobbed.

Nearby, family members of the victims clustered around Fleming, who answered their questions about court procedures.

Fleming, supervisor of the homicide unit, was standing in for Deputy District Attorney Kevin Mayo, who was visiting the crime scene, Fleming said.

The family plans to attend future court appearances, said Mauricio Escobar, the legal guardian who raised Sabrina Dahnke as a daughter.

"We feel like a part of us is gone, and we can't understand how two young men could do that," Escobar said Wednesday evening.

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