Twenty-Year-Old Halloween Murder Case Cracked by DA/SJPD Team

For release on October 14, 2021

CONTACT:

Bryan Slater
Supervising Deputy District Attorney
Gangs Unit
(408) 808-3758

Twenty-Year-Old Halloween Murder Case Cracked by DA/SJPD Team

Three middle-aged San Jose men – two of them brothers - have been charged with the gang stabbing murder that happened on Halloween two decades ago.

The long unsolved killing of 22-year-old Nhin Phi Ha was cracked by a San Jose detective and a DA Investigator who put together old and new evidence such as a bloody butterfly knife, reported nightmares, a scratched SUV, and Facebook posts that showed the suspects were active in a street gang.

Eutropio Dagaray, 47, Francis Dagaray, 45, and Gilbert Meriales, 45, charged with murder and related charges, will be arraigned on Friday, October 15th in the Hall of Justice in San Jose. They face life in prison, if convicted.

“Because of people like DA Investigator Michael Montonye and SJPD Detective Todd Jennings, there are no murderers who should feel they got away with it in Santa Clara County,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Whether it takes a day or decades, we will never stop trying to bring to justice those who commit violent crimes in our community.”

Since January 2011, the District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit has solved a total of 16 murders. 

On Oct. 31, 2001, the three defendants – then in their twenties and members of the Bahala Na gang - were looking for revenge. Meriales had been beaten up earlier that evening. Wielding butterfly knives and broom sticks, they attacked two men in front of an apartment complex on Avalani Drive. They stabbed Ha to death and badly injured another man. They left a single Balisong knife at the scene.

The survivor and witnesses said the attackers had painted faces. The brother of the survivor had run down from his apartment and hurled a kitchen knife at the SUV striking it as it drove away. Years of investigation yielded good leads but no definitive case.

Earlier this year, SJPD Detective Jennings and DAO Investigator Montonye tried again, putting together incriminating statements of now cooperative witnesses saying one of the defendants had nightmares of the murder. The three men had numerous postings on Facebook showing themselves as members of the criminal street gang.

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