3 sentenced in slaying of Baldwin Park teenager

POMONA – Three men will likely spend the rest of their lives behind bars for the 2002 slaying of a Baldwin Park teenager whose body was dragged behind a car for miles through Turnbull Canyon.
Pomona Superior Court Judge Michael Camacho on Wednesday sentenced Victor Monge, 33, to 85 years to life in prison, Matthew Garcia, 27, to 80 years to life in prison and Abraham Acuna, 34, to 55 years to life in prison, court officials said.
All men were living in El Monte at the time of the murder.
They were each convicted of first-degree murder June 4 at Pomona Superior Court for the October 2002 murder of 17-year-old Gloria Gaxiola of Baldwin Park.
Prosecutor Stephen Dones called the killing “particularly vicious” and said the men killed Gaxiola to silence her.
“They were afraid of her testifying about a robbery they had committed,” Dones said.
Gaxiola, whose was a member of Agape Christian Center in Pico Rivera where her brother was a pastor, had befriended the three men.
Monge and Garcia were sentenced as third-strike offenders, while Acuna was sentenced as a second-striker, Dones said.
Authorities believe Gaxiola was shot on Turnbull Canyon Road in Hacienda Heights before being dragged several miles by the killers’ car.
The body was found at Hacienda Boulevard and Colima Road.
“We believe her foot was caught in the seat belt,” Dones said.
Dones said coroner’s officials were unable to determine exactly what injury killed Gaxiola.
At least one witness called police to report the body being dragged behind the car, he added, however the car was not found.
No arrests were made in the case for five years until 2008, Dones said, when a witness came forward with new information.
The prosecution alleged during the trial that Garcia was the gunman in the attack, he said, however the jury did not find that allegation to be true.
A jury convicted Monge, Garcia and Acuna after deliberating for less than a day.
The men were believed to live in the El Monte area at the time of the killing, officials said. It was not clear where they had been living since 2002.
Steve Burrola, 44, of Whittier said he was relieved to see the case come to and end at last.
Family members of Gaxiola could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
A truck driver, Burrola was driving down Colima Road when he saw Gaxiola’s body alongside the road.
He said the image has remained fresh in his mind ever since.
Burrola said he initially thought the young woman had been struck by a car.
“I was deeply saddened when I learned more of the story about her,” he said. “It really hit me, knowing she was dragged.”
The sentencing of the killers Wednesday brought Burrola a sense of closure, he said.
“I would never forget and wanted the people responsible to be brought back to justice,” Burrola said. “I will never forget Gloria Gaxiola.”

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