SANTA CRUZ—The four men who investigators say kidnapped and murdered a Pleasure Point man two years ago appeared in court Tuesday for the first day of their preliminary hearing.
Stephen Lindsay, 28, Joshua Camps, 25, and brothers Kaleb and Kurtis Charters, 20 and 23, respectively, are being held in Santa Cruz County Jail without bail.
They are accused of breaking into the home of Tushar Atre on Oct. 1, 2019, binding his hands with plastic handcuffs, forcing him into his girlfriend’s BMW and then driving him to his property on Soquel San Jose Road, where they killed him with a high-powered rifle.
Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Steven Siegel ordered that all but Camps have one arm cuffed during the hearings, citing the conduct of the others while in jail.
Siegel also denied requests by several media organizations to take video and photos of the hearing, agreeing with defense attorneys that images of them in orange jail attire could prejudice potential jurors.
During a preliminary hearing, prosecutors must convince a judge that there is enough evidence to bring suspects to trial. The four suspects’ hearing is expected to last one week.
Atre in 1996 founded AtreNet, a web design company, and owned Interstitial Systems, which manufactured cannabis products. Kaleb Charters and Lindsay are former employees of Interstitial Systems.
According to Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies who took the stand, law enforcement officials responded to a call of a potential kidnapping and burglary at 3:34am at Atre’s residence at 3034 Pleasure Point Drive.
There, they met one of Atre’s employees who reported hearing two unknown men shouting “get on your stomach,” “put your hands behind your back,” “where is it,” “where are they” and “open the safe.”
The suspects, deputies testified the employee said, then forced Atre outside where, with his hands bound behind him, he tried to run before being tackled and stabbed by Lindsay. Deputies said he was then made to get into the passenger seat of the BMW, and the suspects drove him to 245 Soquel San Jose Road.
Deputies searching for the BMW later that morning found Atre at the property, sprawled on the ground with a gunshot wound to his face.
Investigators searching Camps’ residence found numerous handguns, rifles and ammunition, along with the same type of plastic handcuffs used to bind Atre’s hands. Camps also told investigators where to find a piece of a rifle that had been buried.
During cross-examination by the suspects’ four defense attorneys, the deputies who took the stand described witness testimony about Atre’s often combative relationship with his employees, and said that he “went out of his way” to start fights. One witness said he was known for delaying paychecks to assure future work. Others said that Atre had several disgruntled employees, and that at least one person had made death threats against him.
Still another employee attempted to run Atre over with his own vehicle, before stealing the vehicle, deputies said, while another one was accused of smashing equipment in Atre’s business.