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Judge rules dogfighting case can go to court

LAWRENCEVILLE - A magistrate court judge on Friday ruled there was sufficient evidence against four men accused of dogfighting to bind their charges over to superior court.

Judge Robert Waller listened for more than four hours as attorneys defended Mauricio Montoya, 28, Efren Reyes, 33, Jose Hernandez-Chable, 37, and Luis Reyes Esquival, 30, during a probable cause hearing.

All four men were arrested Sept. 7 at 3362 Southampton Way near Snellville after the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department received information from a confidential informant that possible dogfighting and training was taking place at the home.

Upon obtaining and executing a search warrant, authorities found seven dogs and three puppies restrained in the backyard. Authorities believed most, if not all, of the dogs appeared to be involved in fighting.

Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department Investigator Hendryx Colon testified Friday that many of the dogs had scars consistent with fighting, and items such as a rape stand, spring pole and break sticks - all items he said are typically used in dogfighting - were found in the backyard.

Colon said dogfighting magazines were also discovered inside the home. He believes a freestanding shed in the backyard housed the alleged fights.

According to Colon's testimony, authorities discovered the dogs chained to car axles behind the home, puppies in cages as well as a number of roosters and chickens in cages.

Skeletal remains of three dogs were also found buried on the Southampton Way property, Colon said.

In addition to the dogfighting allegations, Reyes faces a possession of dangerous drugs charge.

An affidavit states Sheriff's Department investigators found Paxil hidden in a roll of film near a box containing some of Reyes' personal effects. The drugs were discovered in the shed behind the home.

Reyes-Esquival also faces drug-related charges. According to an affidavit, hydrocodone was found in a prescription bottle in Reyes-Esquival's bedroom, allegedly in a bottle with a label containing a name other than his own.

Before Waller made his ruling, Steve Fern, Gwinnett County assistant district attorney, argued there was sufficient evidence for the men to go trial.

"We have a wealth of information in regards to everything you've heard in this case," Fern told Waller.

The defendants' attorneys believed differently, each arguing for a dismissal of the charges.

A subsequent court date for the men was not available Friday.

All four men are also facing deportation to Mexico - their native country - following any possible trials in Gwinnett, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities.

"All four aliens are from Mexico and are illegally in the United States," said ICE spokesman Richard Rocha. "Detainers were lodged on all, and ICE will assume custody once the local charges are adjudicated."