Shandon murder suspect has criminal record, mental health troubles

July 19, 2023

Justin Buchanan


The Shandon man who stabbed to death his stepmother and wounded his father Monday evening has a criminal record related to domestic violence and a history of mental health struggles. [Tribune]

On Monday evening, 31-year-old Justin Buchanan allegedly stabbed his father William Buchanan, 52, and his stepmother Kelly Buchanan, 44, multiple times. Kelly Buchanan died from her injuries.

Though William Buchanan sustained life-threatening injuries, he is currently in stable condition.

Deputies arrested Justin Buchanan and booked him in San Luis Obispo Count Jail on a no-bail warrant for homicide.

In 2013, Justin Buchanan was diagnosed with major depression with psychiatric features. Buchanan has a history of violent outbursts and was twice arrested for domestic violence offenses, court records show.

On June 7, 2013, Buchanan was reportedly suicidal and had ingested a large amount of prescription medication at a home in Atascadero where he was living with his then-girlfriend. His-then girlfriend told officers Buchanan was suffering from delusions and had threatened to kill her. 

Earlier that day, the woman found Buchanan listening to recordings of her therapy sessions with a psychiatrist she was seeing. Buchanan then slapped her, grabbed her by the neck, lifted her up and forced her to the ground. He held her down for about a minute, then went to the bathroom and swallowed handfuls of prescription pills, the woman told officers.

After police arrived at the home, it took officers six hours to restrain Buchanan. He then spent the night in the hospital, and the following day, attempted to kick and bite police officers who took him to jail. 

Prosecutors charged Buchanan with six felonies. In Dec. 2013, he pleaded no contest to charges of obstructing or resisting an executive officer, inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, false imprisonment with force and battery on a peace officer. Prosecutors dropped two felony counts related to criminal threats. 

In Jan. 2014, a judge sentenced Buchanan to four years of probation. 

Then in June 2019, authorities arrested Buchanan over a domestic violence incident involving a woman whom he was dating and living with in Arroyo Grande. In July 2020, Buchanan pleaded no contest to assault, and prosecutors dropped a battery charge against him. 

In Sept. 2019, a judge sentenced Buchanan to three years of probation. 

Neighbors of Buchanan’s in Shandon said the man was well-known for his violent past. However, Brent Buchanan, Justin Buchanan’s brother, stated in a Facebook post that the fatal stabbing was unexpected.

“None of us knew that this was going to happen,” Brent Buchanan said in the Facebook post. “We all knew something was wrong with Justin but never thought he could do this. 

“I’ve been dealing with so many calls of family members screaming in pain and crying.

“We all tried to help Justin and nothing worked. I hope the best for his kids and their mother,” Brent Buchanan wrote.

Natalia Zuniga, who says she is the mother of Justin Buchanan’s children, stated in a Facebook post that the he has also victimized her.

“I’m his victim,” Zuniga said in the Facebook post. “There are too many victims of this tragedy. I just wish my speaking out did more instead of lead to this. Kelly and Billy didn’t deserve any of this.”

Zuniga reportedly attempted to help Justin Buchanan with his mental health struggles. But, she became overwhelmed by the abuse she face and kicked Justin Buchanan out of her home to protect herself and their children. 

Since then, Justin Buchanan had been living with his father and stepmother. They lived together in the Shandon home for about up to the stabbing. 

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