The California Supreme Court Thursday upheld the death sentence for a West Covina man convicted of murdering five people, including a 5-year-old girl and an infant, in El Monte.
Richard Valdez was convicted in 1996 of the April 22, 1995 shooting deaths of Anthony Moreno; his sister Maria Moreno; Maria Moreno’s children Laura Moreno, 5, and Abrose Padilla, 6-months; and Gustavo Aguirre at a Maxson Avenue apartment.
A 6-year-old boy survived the shooting by hiding, then running to a neighbor’s house to ask for help, “crying, screaming and covered in blood,” according to court documents.
“Defendant contends the errors he alleges cumulatively amounted to reversible error,” California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu wrote in his concurring opinion. “To the extent there are a few instances in which we have found error or assumed its existence, no prejudice resulted. The same conclusion is appropriate after considering their cumulative effect.”
“The jury found that defendant participated in five execution-style shootings of unarmed and unresisting victims,” Liu wrote. (Valdez) personally executed two of the victims by pressing a gun to their heads and firing.”
Five other defendants have also been reportedly convicted of the killing.
“The evidence presented at trial established that (Valdez), who was a member of the Sangra street gang, shot and killed Anthony and Gustavo while his codefendant and fellow Sangra gang member Jimmy Palma shot and killed Maria and the children,” according to the 127-page opinion in which the Supreme Court justices affirmed Valdez’s death sentence.
Palma reportedly died in prison about four months after his conviction in a prison stabbing. Another killer, Luis Maciel of El Monte, has also been sentenced to death in connection with the mass killing, but has not had appeal heard. Convicts sentenced to death in California receive an automatic appeal by state law.
Two other men are reportedly serving sentences of 129 years to life in prison for the slayings, while another was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors alleged the convicts carried out the killing because Anthony Moreno had left the Mexican Mafia, which he had belonged to since 1973, in the mid-1980s.
Following Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, Valdez will return to his place among 723 other condemned inmates awaiting execution on California’s death row.