Teen charged with torture, murder in fatal beating near Petco Park

SAN DIEGO -- A 19-year-old accused in the fatal beating of a 56-year-old man near a pedestrian bridge behind Petco Park pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and torture charges.

Dominick Wells, who also faces an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury causing the victim to become comatose, was ordered held on $1 million bail.

Prosecutor Mary Loeb said Wells faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the murder of Edward Starland. If also convicted of torture, the defendant would face life behind bars, the prosecutor said.

Four juveniles -- two girls and two boys -- allegedly took part in the fatal beating. So far, the District Attorney's Office has not decided if they will be charged.

Witnesses said Starland had been fighting with a group of young people -- why was unclear -- the afternoon of Nov. 18 before he was thrown down and beaten. When witnesses started yelling at the attackers to stop, they fled east on Imperial Avenue, police said.

“The torture charge has an allegation that (Wells) personally inflicted great bodily injury to the victim which resulted in him being comatose,” Deputy District Attorney Mary Loeb said after the hearing.  “Police have spoken to many witnesses, including ones who assisted and attempt to save the victim."

Starland was placed on life support and died Dec. 3.

Wells will be back in court Jan. 28 for a status conference and April 2 for a preliminary hearing.

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