Adah Pearson
One of the Sept. 4, 2000 victims, Adah Pearson. Find a Grave photo

A man accused of gunning down a young couple and a toddler in Normal Heights more than two decades ago was ordered Thursday to stand trial on murder charges.

Sergio Lopez Contreras, 45, is accused in the Sept. 4, 2000, shootings of Michael Plummer, 20, Plummer’s girlfriend, Adah Pearson, 18, and Plummer’s nephew, Julio Rangel Jr., who was 21 months old.

Prosecutors argued the shooting, which took place at an apartment on Bancroft Street, was sparked because Plummer owed Contreras money for drugs. Witnesses testified that the amount of money at issue was between $20 and $30.

Contreras allegedly confronted Plummer about the money, then fired more than a dozen shots into the apartment with a rifle.

Retired San Diego police Detective Stephen McDonald, who responded to the shooting scene, testified at a preliminary hearing that Pearson was lying on a couch behind Plummer when the shooting occurred. Bullets went through the wall behind Pearson and entered a bedroom on the other side, where the toddler was located, McDonald said.

The child’s parents were present when the shooting took place but were uninjured, according to the detective.

Plummer died at the scene, while Pearson and the baby were taken to hospitals, where they were later pronounced dead.

According to preliminary hearing testimony, Contreras was identified as the gunman by multiple people who were allegedly present during the shooting.

Contreras’ defense attorney, Neil Besse, argued none of those witnesses were reliable. The attorney suggested those people had “every reason to lie” because they may have had some involvement in the shooting or other crimes.

San Diego police said Contreras, who was 22 at the time of the shootings, fled to Mexico.

Prosecutors filed charges against Contreras in 2007. Along with three counts of murder, he faces special-circumstance allegations of lying in wait and committing multiple murders, meaning he could face either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty, should prosecutors pursue it.

He was arrested in Mexico on unrelated charges and extradited to San Diego earlier this year.

– City News Service