The four young men arrested and charged almost a year and a half ago in the October 2019 murder of Santa Cruz resident Tushar Atre are now in the midst of a pre-trial hearing in which a judge will decide whether all four will face trial.
Way back in May 2020, we learned that authorities in Santa Cruz had zeroed in on a quartet of suspects in the kidnapping and murder of Atre, which shocked the typically quiet town of Santa Cruz seven months earlier. Stephen Nicolas Lindsay, 23; Joshua James Camps, 25; and brothers Kurtis and Kaleb Charters, 23 and 20, respectively, were all arraigned last August and pleaded not guilty.
Investigators believe this was a robbery gone wrong, and two of the suspects had previously been employed by Atre’s cannabis manufacturing business. As the Mercury News reports via testimony in the pre-trial hearing, Kaleb Charters and Stephen Lindsay had been working for Atre earlier in 2019, and there had been some dispute over wages owed to them when they left that employment and moved to Las Vegas.
The case against the four suspects rests on 10 hours of statements they gave back in May 2020, and parts of those on-camera defendant interviews have been played throughout the hearing. Attorneys for each of the suspects suggest that they’ve all implicated each other in various ways — though it sounds like only one suspect, Camps, brought a gun as a “contingency plan.” (Video surveillance that the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office released two years ago showed three of the suspects walking near Atre’s home, one carrying a rifle.)
As the Mercury News reports, an attorney for Camps objected to statements made by Kaleb Charters about Camps bringing along his rifle — and when authorities searched the residence shared by Camps and Kurtis Charters in Lancaster last year, they allegedly found a semi-automatic rifle along with four other firearms.
Atre was kidnapped in the middle of the night on October 1, 2019, from his home on Pleasure Point Drive. His girlfriend reportedly witnessed the kidnapping, and her vehicle was then allegedly used by the kidnappers to drive Atre to another property he owned on Soquel San Jose Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Atre was found in the vehicle there, dead of a gunshot wound, the next day.
It’s remained unclear whether the suspects made off with any money, or what the ultimate situation was with Atre in the car.
Both Camps and Kaleb Charters asked in their statements why it took authorities so long to identify and arrest them — clearly they didn’t think they’d get away with the crime for seven months.
Detectives have testified that they have cellphone data linking the four men’s movements in the days before and after Atre’s murder. The four had, apparently, traveled together from Southern California to Santa Cruz, possibly in a blue sedan belonging to Camps, on September 30, and then left together back to Southern California on October 1.
Kaleb Charters, in the ensuing months, had returned home to St. Clair Shores, Michigan, where he was arrested in May 2020.
All four are facing charges of murder, robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, burglary, and related enhancements, and only Camps is facing a firearms charge.