Jury selection begins in Church’s Chicken shooting murder trial


File – In this November 2019 photo, suspected Church’s Chicken shooter Albert Lee Blake appears before a judge in Tennessee. He now faces a murder charge back in San Diego for the shooting at the Otay Mesa eatery.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (CNS) – Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of a man who allegedly shot up an Otay Mesa fast-food restaurant, killing one of its employees.

Albert Lee Blake, 51, is accused in the Nov. 6, 2019, slaying of 28-year-old Maribel Merino Ibanez at the Church’s Chicken restaurant at 3726 Del Sol Blvd. He’s charged with her murder, plus the attempted murders of three of her co-workers.

Ibanez was fatally wounded in the shooting, and two other employees were hospitalized. One of them was shot in the stomach and the other in the back, according to prosecutors. A third was allegedly fired upon, but was not struck by the gunfire.

At Blake’s preliminary hearing earlier this year, Deputy District Attorney Mary Loeb alleged he tried to use a counterfeit $100 bill to purchase food. When restaurant workers wouldn’t accept it, he left the eatery, came back with a gun and opened fire on the restaurant’s staff, the prosecutor alleged.

Loeb alleged that Blake positioned his car so he could easily flee the scene and changed clothes in order to conceal the weapon before he re-entered the restaurant.

Police circulated photographs of the shooter’s vehicle and a brief physical description of the suspect in the weeks leading up to Blake’s arrest later that month in Memphis, Tennessee.

Blake remains in custody on $5 million bail.

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