Daniel Gross said he reacted in self-defense but would not elaborate on how his friend Lizette Cuesta ended up stabbed multiple times near a road in Livermore.
It was a spur of the moment thing, Gross, 19, told Oakland station KTVU in a Wednesday interview at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
“I didn’t plan to do this at all,” Daniel Gross, 19, of Modesto said in a 20-minute interview from behind a glass partition at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
But he said, “I feel like s—. I f—ing hate myself, you know? I wish I could go back in time and that this never happened.”
He questioned whether any apology would be adequate.
Victim: Lizette Cuesta was friends with her killers and bought herself justice before dying
Gross said the confrontation Monday happened after he and Cuesta had sex in the back of his fiancée, Melissa Leonardo’s, car as Leonardo drove. He said all three smoked marijuana that night and that Cuesta had agreed to be tied up with a yellow rope before the sexual encounter.
Dying woman Lizette Cuesta, used her last words to identify suspects
He declined to say how his friend, 19-year-old Lizette Cuesta of Tracy, ended up dead: “I’d rather not get into that,” he told the station several times during the interview.
Eventually he opened up, claiming he acted in self-defense after Cuesta elbowed him in the ribs. Gross acknowledged that he reacted, but he wouldn’t elaborate.
“It just happened like this,” he said, snapping his fingers. He said the two weren’t arguing at the time and that he didn’t know why Cuesta attacked him.
He said Cuesta was armed with a knife he had given her but that she didn’t come at him with the weapon, only her elbows.
“I gave her the knife,” he said. “She didn’t feel safe skating in Tracy,” he said, referring to the victims’s love for skateboarding. “I protected her.”
Authorities say 19-year old Lizette Cuesta died of stab wounds early Monday after she was found by motorists crawling on her stomach on Tesla Road outside Livermore. He and his girlfriend, Melissa Jill Leonardo, 25, were both arrested in connection with Cuesta’s death.
Investigators with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office found a rope at the spot where Cuesta was abandoned in Livermore.
Lizette Cuesta named her killers before dying
Cuesta had been out in cold weather for several hours and had crawled on her stomach about 100 yards before she was found Monday around 2 a.m. by people driving by, Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said.
Shortly before dying at a hospital, Cuesta told investigators who had attacked her, Kelly said.
He said the confrontation happened outside somewhere in Livermore after he and Cuesta had sex in the back of Leonardo’s car as Leonardo drove. All three had smoked marijuana that night, he said.
During the encounter, he said he had tied her up with a yellow rope, with Cuesta’s consent. A yellow rope was found at the scene near where Alameda County sheriff’s investigators say the victim had been left at the side of the road.
Gross said he was not aware until told by KTVU that Cuesta had managed to crawl 100 yards and clung to life for two hours, but not before allegedly telling first responders and motorists that the couple had attacked her.
“I’m not mad at her,” he said.
Killer couple: Daniel Gross [left], and Melissa Leonardo worked with the victim at the same fast food restaurant in Tracy, California. Both have been charged with murder in the slaying of Lizette Cuesta.
According to Gross, the trio of himself, Cuesta and Leonardo all worked together at a Carl’s Jr. restaurant in Tracy. He and Leonardo were shift leaders, while Cuesta took orders, Gross said.
The suspect said Cuesta began working there about five months ago, and after some time his working relationship with Cuesta turned sexual. Although he is engaged to Leonardo , with whom he is expecting a child, both women were aware of each other and did not object, he said.
He said Leonardo had nothing to do with what happened early Monday other than driving to and from Livermore.
Asked if he was responsible for what happened, Gross simply nodded. Asked if he should be in jail, he shrugged and said, “I’m here.”
Both Gross and Leonardo made their first court appearance Wednesday afternoon. Members of the victim’s family were in the gallery and yelled “you’ll get what you deserve!” The suspects did not enter a plea.
Murder suspect Gross shares a 10-month-old son with former girlfriend, Jacqueline Bowman. He is also expecting another child, with Leonardo, who is due in four months.
Prosecutors on Wednesday charged Gross and 25-year-old Leonardo with murder.
Melissa Jill Leonardo, 25, was arraigned on a murder charge in the death of Lizette Ignacio Cuesta but did not enter a plea on Wednesday.
The arraignment of Daniel Leebenjamin Gross, 19, on suspicion of murdering Cuesta, was continued by Judge Gordon Baranco to Thursday. He has been charged with murder but with special allegations of use of a deadly weapon and causing great bodily injury. Both defendants remain in county jail on no bail.
Gross’ former girlfriend, Jacqueline Bowman, said she briefly dated him for several months in 2016 and shares a 10-month-old son with him. Gross is also expecting another child, with Leonardo, who is due in June. Leonardo’s apparent baby bump could be seen in court on Wednesday afternoon underneath her red jail clothes.
Gross and appeared in court in red jail clothes, his hands in handcuffs around his waist. Emotions ran so high during the court hearing, that a judge ejected several of Cuesta’s relatives after they yelled at Leonardo, “You’ll get what you deserve!”
Cuesta’s father, Ray Cuesta, told KGO-TV that Lizette brought justice for herself before dying by naming her the people who attacked her. Ray Cuesta told the station “everybody knows how tough she was.”
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