NORWALK — Jury selection began Tuesday for two El Monte men charged with slashing the throat of a 20-year-old Bellflower woman and leaving her for dead in a rugged canyon.
Vincent Mendoza, 23, and Edward Meraz, 26, are each charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, aggravated mayhem and assault with a deadly weapon for the 2009 attack on Christina Ivonne Martinez, who was then 20 years old.
Prosecutors also allege the men personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim and Mendoza used a knife to commit the crimes.
The charges stem from the Aug. 4, 2009, kidnapping of Martinez.
Martinez told police she was going to the beach with the men, who were her friends, when she got into their car.
Instead, she was tied up, beaten and then driven to Whittier where she was unbound and forced out of the car. One of the men then allegedly slashed her throat before pushing her down the rocky canyon.
Despite her injuries, Martinez was able to climb the steep grade. She then made her way to the back door of a house in the 6000 block of Altmark Avenue in Whittier where she was helped by a resident.
A Whittier Police Department officer later stopped a Mitsubishi and found the two defendants, along with a third suspect, a shovel and a rope, police said.
The third suspect, Jose Ayala, pleaded no contest on March 17 to a single count of attempted murder and was sentenced to 39 years to life in prison.
There was no word Tuesday if he would testify against his former co-defendants.
If Meraz and Mendoza are convicted on all counts, they face face a life prison term as well.
A jury was chosen Tuesday for Mendoza. A separate jury will be selected Wednesday for Meraz, according to court staff.
The two men will be tried simultaneously, with the two juries seated in the same courtroom to save time and expenses.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Dept. D of the Norwalk Superior Court.
- From our counterparts over at the Long Beach Press Telegram.