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Murder Trial Ordered for Man, 26, Accused of Pushing Stranger into Oncoming Train

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Police examine the platform at the Old Town Trolley station on Jan. 1, 2022. Photo via OnScene.TV.

A man accused of killing another man by pushing him into an oncoming train at the Old Town Transit Center was ordered Monday to stand trial on a murder charge.

Ryan Michael Rukstelis, 26, is accused of killing 68-year-old Santee resident Martin Andara on New Year’s Day. Police and prosecutors allege Rukstelis punched and pushed Andara, who fell into the side of a passing train. He died at the scene.

According to testimony from Rukstelis’ preliminary hearing, both men were passengers aboard a trolley that stopped at the Old Town station at around 6 a.m. Both men were in the same trolley car for about 30 minutes, but did not interact with one another during the trip, police witnesses testified.

Surveillance footage played in court showed two men departing the trolley, then walking in the same direction.

A man, who police allege is Rukstelis, is seen walking ahead of Andara, then suddenly turns and punches the victim, then pushes him into the side of a moving train.

A security guard found Andara lying in a pool of blood. An autopsy revealed he suffered a skull fracture, complete severing of the brain stem, and internal decapitation, according to testimony.

By analyzing surveillance footage at various train stations throughout the county, police were able to determine that Rukstelis was allegedly at a trolley station in Mission Valley just after 2:30 a.m. Jan. 1. There, police say surveillance footage captured him attempting to remove the already-broken front panel of a soda machine.

San Diego police Detective Steven Choy said fingerprints were lifted from the inside of the soda machine panel. Seven of the 24 impressions found there matched Rukstelis, the detective testified.

Choy said photographs of Rukstelis from a law enforcement database were then compared to the surveillance footage of the suspect.

Investigators arrested Rukstelis at his mother’s workplace three days after Andara’s death, Choy testified. Rukstelis had a backpack with him at the time of his arrest. Inside the backpack were a pair of pants and a shirt that Choy said appeared identical to the suspect’s clothing.

Rukstelis’ DNA was also discovered on the victim’s jacket, according to the detective.

Rukstelis remains in custody without bail.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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