Witnesses testify in Preston Oates murder Trial - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Witnesses testify in Preston Oates murder Trial

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BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) -

Testimony is underway in the Preston Oates murder trial. Both sides shared brief opening statements Tuesday morning before the state put several family members on the witness stand.

It's been tough for the family members, and Tuesday was a very emotional day in court for them as they heard the 911 tapes for the very first time.

Several of them cried in court as they remembered how they were there that night to celebrate Christmas Eve peacefully together.

During opening statements, the state asked jurors to consider why Carlos Olivera had to be murdered with his family watching inside.

But the defense maintains that Oates shot Olivera in self-defense since he was also armed with a pistol.

The family's spokesperson said it has been a very painful and frustrating three and a half years but seeing this trial start gives them some hope.

"It's a little glimpse of the cave, it's a little shining light but we are confident that the judicial system is doing their job, their work and at the end, we'll see justice," the victim's brother, Nelson Olivera said.

Oates' charges were upgraded on Monday, and he now faces murder charges instead of manslaughter in the shooting death of 34-year-old Carlos Olivera.

The trial is expected to last the entire week and maybe even go into next week as well. 

About a dozen witnesses have testified in the first day of the Preston Oates murder trial.

Many of them were relatives of the victim, Carlos Olivera.

Prosecutors say Oates shot Olivera on Christmas Eve in 2010 over a tow truck dispute.

The prosecution didn't waste any time calling their strongest witnesses to the stand.

Many of these family members testified to seeing the same thing happen that night when Preston Oates, a tow truck driver at the time, tried to tow Olivera's minivan.

But what was even more compelling were the audio recordings that jurors heard today.

What you're hearing is a series of frantic 911 calls made by members of Carlos Olivera's family.

Operator: "Can you tell me is he breathing?"
Nelson Olivera: "My brother, he's not breathing!"
Operator: "He's not breathing?"
Nelson Olivera: "He's in the middle of the (...) on the ground."

A total of 14 calls came in that night to Beaufort County dispatch.

One came from the defendant, Preston Oates who admitted he had shot someone after trying to tow their car.

Operator: "OK, where did you shoot him?"
Oates: "Um…face, chest? I don't know…it's dark out here."

Prosecutors say Oates shot Olivera a total of six times, four hitting his back.

Family members say Olivera had a concealed weapons permit but it's not clear why he had a gun on him that night.

Nelson Olivera, the victim's brother, testified Olivera never aimed his gun at Oates and that Oates continued to shoot him after he fell face down on his side.

After that, he said Oates threatened them.

"He put his gun on my forehead like this and he said, 'if you make another step, I'll kill you' were his words. So I say, 'ok, kill me,'" said Nelson.

But the defense maintains all along that Oates shot Olivera in self-defense after seeing a gun pointed at him.

Jurors also heard an audio recording of Oates inside a deputy's vehicle shortly after he was detained.

This is his reaction to someone tapping on the window and getting too close:

"He threatened me! He just threatened me! Really? Come on, I'm a little emotional. Right now, I just went through a traumatic experience. I've never had to kill anybody before, I didn't want to do this."

During all of today's testimony, Oates did not show any emotion at all.

Testimony will continue Wednesday morning. The state will most likely call more law enforcement officers to the witness stand.

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