A reputed gang member has been convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the fatal stabbing of 17-year-old Newark High School student and football star Justice Afoa four years ago. Prosecutor Elgin Lowe alleged that Rafael Tovar, a 33-year-old batch mixer from Newark, was one of two people who fatally stabbed Afoa near the intersection of Cedar Boulevard and Birch Street in Newark at about 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2010. Afoa was a defensive lineman at Newark Memorial High School and made second team all-league in the Mission Valley Athletic League in the 2009 season.
In addition to being convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder by an Alameda County Superior Court jury in Hayward on Monday, Tovar was found guilty of committing the crimes to benefit a criminal street gang. Lowe alleged that Daniel Howard, a 32-year-old trucker from Fremont, was the other person who fatally stabbed Afoa. Howard was convicted last May 31 of first-degree murder and committing the crime to benefit a gang. He also was convicted of two counts of premeditated attempted murder for trying to kill his girlfriend and her unborn child in a separate incident in Fremont on Nov. 25, 2012.
Howard was sentenced to 70 years to life in state prison last June 27. Tovar’s sister Daniela Guzman, 21, of Newark, is also charged with murder in connection with Afoa’s death and is scheduled to stand trial on Dec. 10. According to a probable cause statement filed in court by Newark police Officer Dan Anderson, the event that sparked the chain of events that led to Afoa’s death was when Afoa beat up Tovar at Tovar’s home at 12:28 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2010. Prosecutors said Tovar began the fight because he was upset that a friend of Afoa had broken up with Guzman, his sister.
Tovar was so badly beaten up by Afoa that he eventually had to be taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley for treatment, Anderson said. Tovar later learned that Afoa had been bragging about beating him up and Tovar felt “great embarrassment” because he was a member of the Norteno gang and was much older than Afoa, according to Anderson. On Oct. 30, six weeks after the first incident, Tovar plotted to attack Afoa at a party at 36187 Cedar Blvd. in Newark, Anderson said. Afoa was assaulted with a beer bottle and a friend of his suffered “numerous severe stab wounds” but no arrests were made because the people involved in the incident were uncooperative with police, according to Anderson.
Anderson said Tovar eventually admitted that he stabbed Afoa about five times on Dec. 15, 2010, and estimated that Howard also stabbed Afoa about five times. Lowe said the chain of events that led to Afoa’s death also led to the stabbing death of his friend, 18-year-old Newark Memorial High School football star Osana Futi, in Fremont in April 2012. Lowe said 20-year-old Abraham Hade of Fremont, whom he alleged was a leader of a branch of the Norteno gang called Fremont Mexican Territory, killed Futi because Futi had quarreled with the gang’s members because he believed they were responsible for Afoa’s death.
No one had been charged in connection with Afoa’s death when Futi was fatally stabbed, as Howard, Tovar and Guzman weren’t arrested and charged until December 2012. Hade was convicted of second-degree murder for Futi’s death and was sentenced in 2013 to 16 years to life in state prison. Tovar is scheduled to return to court on Dec. 9 for a hearing to determine if his prior felony convictions were valid. His sentencing date will be set after that hearing.
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