A convicted felon accused of killing a Corona man he supplied with marijuana by strangling him and beating him with anything he could get his hands on must stand trial for murder, a judge ruled today.
Francisco “Frank” Humberto Real, 41, of Norco was arrested in December after allegedly killing 23-year-old Michael Cheatham.
Following a 90-minute preliminary hearing at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Prevost found there was sufficient evidence to bound Real over for trial on the murder count, as well as being a convicted felon in possession of a gun and sentence-enhancing allegations of using a gun to commit a felony and recklessly discharging a firearm.
Prevost scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment in the case for June 6. Real remains held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
According to investigators, Cheatham had purchased pot from Real for two years as part of a medical marijuana distribution business. The defendant described the victim as his “partner” but noted that by the time of the
deadly confrontation last Dec. 18, Cheatham had fallen behind in his payments for the cannabis, owing between $3,000 and $4,000.
Corona police Detective Dan Bloomfield testified that around 7 p.m., Real went to Cheatham’s two-bedroom apartment at 638 Stoneybrook Drive with the intent of collecting at least part of the debt.
Bloomfield said that during the encounter, Real and Cheatham went into a room that functioned as an office, where a confrontation ensued. Real told authorities that Cheatham struck him from behind, sending the defendant to the
“Frank told me that he was in a fight for his life,” Bloomfield testified. “He said Mike grabbed a gun and tried to shoot him, grabbed a skateborad and tried to hit him, grabbed a steak knife and came at him. Each time, Frank said he was able to get the things away from him.”
The defendant also told investigators he became “enraged” during the altercation and “blacked out,” forgetting much of what happened beyond a certain point.
A downstairs neighbor heard the commotion and also heard a man shouting, “Help me! Help me!” at which point she dialed 911 and summoned the police, according to testimony.
Officers testified that when they arrived and accessed the apartment less than 10 minutes later, the space was a bloody mess, with smears on the hallway walls and pools of blood in two rooms.
Cheatham was found lying on his stomach on the floor of the master bedroom, blood-soaked, with a black belt buckled tightly around his neck, according to testimony.
A .380 semiautomatic handgun was found in his right hand, but detectives said it appeared to have been placed there. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy revealed he suffered multiple blunt force traumas to his
neck and head.
Officers found Real lying in a nearby room, appearing exhausted but largely unscathed, with the exception of a couple of minor cuts.
Bloomfield testified the handgun had been fired twice. Further investigation revealed it was registered to Real’s brother-in-law. A homemade silencer customized to fit the pistol was later seized in the detached garage of Real’s home, where a number of marijuana plants were also discovered, according to the detective.
According to court records, the defendant has a prior felony conviction for manufacturing an illegal firearm.
If convicted, he could face 30 years to life in prison.