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Trial begins for Desert Hot Springs Man accused in wife’s fatal shooting

James Daniel Fidler III and Janette Reyes
DHSPD / Family
James Daniel Fidler III and Janette Reyes

Trial began today for a Desert Hot Springs man suspected of fatally shooting his wife of three years in their home and endangering their children, who were all under 4 years old.

James Daniel Fidler III, 34, is charged with one felony count each of murder and inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, along with four counts of willful child cruelty, according to court records. The charges stem from the May 6, 2015, shooting death of his wife, 19-year-old Janette Reyes, with whom he shared three kids aged between 6 months and 3 years old at the time.   

Fidler remains held at the John J. Benoit Detention Center in Indio in lieu of $3 million bail, according to inmate records.   

After jurors were sworn in Tuesday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao and Fidler's defense attorney Ryan G. Markson delivered their opening statements.

Authorities say the shooting happened about 2 a.m. at the couple's home in the 16100 block of Via Quedo, in an unincorporated area just south of Desert Hot Springs.

Fidler allegedly ran two doors from his home to the residence of the victim's uncle and asked him for help because his wife had been shot, according to a trial brief filed by prosecutors. They then drove back to the defendant's home, put Reyes into a gold Acura, and drove her to Desert Regional Medical Center.

When deputies arrived at the scene, they found the car unattended in front of the ER entrance with the engine still running and both front doors open, prosecutors wrote. Fidler ran to the doors yelling for help, but when nurses questioned him on what happened, he allegedly took off running.

Reyes sustained a gunshot wound to the back of her head and was placed on life support once she arrived at the hospital because she had no brain activity and could not breathe on her own, according to prosecutors. She was pronounced dead at 9:45 p.m. May 11, 2015.

After leaving his wife at the hospital, Fidler allegedly called his mother, asked her to pick him up, and told her that he had shot Reyes, prosecutors wrote. His mother drove the defendant to say goodbye to his family and then took him to the Palm Desert sheriff's station to turn him in.

While still in the car, Fidler received a call from his brother who told him that his wife had died, though she was actually still alive at that moment, and the defendant jumped out of the car and fled on foot, according to prosecutors. After a six-hour manhunt and call to the defendant's family, he
was taken back into the station.

When deputies searched the scene, an audio recorder located in their bedroom was found and had captured audio from the night of the shooting, during which the defendant was allegedly heard talking to the victim as though he believed she was having an affair, prosecutors wrote. Fidler asked her what she was doing and after she said "I'm just sitting here'' the defendant allegedly shot her.

Deputies also found a phone that allegedly had videos displaying a history of domestic sexual abuse against Reyes, according to the brief.   

Fidler was previously convicted in 2010 and 2011 of domestic violence against his previous partner.   

According to preliminary hearing testimony, Fidler was at a barbecue that began the previous day with friends and relatives to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. During the get-together, Fidler injected methamphetamine, the defendant's grandmother testified. She added that Fidler told her by phone he believed he saw Reyes having sex with someone else prior to the shooting.

Fidler's brother, Ronald Chavez, testified that Fidler showed up crying hysterically, and explained that he "heard someone in the room," then heard a "pop." Upon being pressed for more facts, Fidler allegedly said, "I guess I shot her,'' Chavez testified.

Chavez testified that Reyes had been unhappy that Fidler had recently started using methamphetamine again, but that the couple didn't otherwise seem to be having obvious problems.

In ordering Fidler to stand trial on charges including child endangerment during his preliminary hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Gunther cited the fact that the couple's four children had access to the firearm and were living in "deleterious conditions."

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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