A jury began deliberating Wednesday on whether to recommend the death penalty for two men convicted of fatally shooting three and wounding seven others outside a Pico Rivera pizza parlor in 2009.
Shiara Dávila-Morales, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, said a Los Angeles Superior Court jury on Friday found John Perez and Rudy Ruiz guilty of three counts of first degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and seven counts of attempted murder.
The jurors found true the allegations that each personally and intentionally discharged a firearm and caused great bodily injury to the victims; that each defendant was a principal in the commission of the offenses; and that the crime was committed for the benefit of a street gang.
Davila- Morales said the jury also found true a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.
The penalty phase of the trial began Monday, she said.
The jury began deliberating on whether to recommend a death sentence Wednesday afternoon. The men faced the possibilities of life imprisonment or death.
The case stems from the June 27, 2009 shooting at Falcone’s Pizza in the 9200 block of Slauson Avenue in Pico Rivera. Killed in the shooting were Carlos Carrera, 39, of La Habra, Garret Dandini, 25, of Whittier and his cousin Tony Dandini, 39, of Whittier.
Ruiz and Perez targeted a fundraiser at the pizza parlour under the mistaken belief that it was a meeting of members of the Mongols motorcycle gang, according to testimony heard during their preliminary hearing.
But instead, they fired at a gathering of the “Old School Riders,” a local motorcycle club which detectives said has no gang ties.
- Staff report
LOS ANGELES — The fate of two men accused of opening fire on a crowd at a Pico Rivera pizza parlor, killing three and wounding seven others, was in the hands of a Los Angeles Superior Court jury Wednesday as the began deliberations in the triple-murder trial.
Alleged gang members Rudy “Chapo” Ruiz, 34, of Whittier and John “Diablo” Perez, 46, of Pico Rivera, are accused of three counts of murder, seven counts of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the June 27, 2009, shooting at Falcone’s Pizza in the 9200 block of Slauson Avenue in Pico Rivera.
Killed in the shooting were Carlos Carrera, 39, of La Habra, Garret Dandini, 25, of Whittier and his cousin Tony Dandini, 39, of Whittier.
Ruiz and Perez are accused of targeted a fundraiser at the pizza parlour under the mistaken belief that it was a meeting of members of the Mongols motorcycle gang, according to testimony heard during their preliminary hearing.
But instead, they opened fire on a gathering of the “Old School Riders,” a local motorcycle club which detectives said had no gang ties.
PICO RIVERA – A jury Friday convicted a 53-year-old Pico Rivera man of shooting a 19-year-old man to death, then burying the body in his Pico Rivera backyard, officials said.
A Norwalk Superior Court jury found Robert Redd guilty of second-degree murder for the July, 2011, slaying of Joseph Rubalcaba of Pico Rivera, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Brandon Wong said. The jury also found true three sentence-enhancing special allegations that Redd used a gun in the killing, that he intentionally fired the gun and that he intentionally fired the gun causing great bodily injury or death.
Rubalcaba had been staying with Redd on and off for about two months prior to his slaying, Wong said.
After he disappeared on or about July 18, worried family members went looking for him, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials. They visited Redd’s home in the 8500 block of Pico Vista Road, knowing that Rubalcaba visited often, and discovered human remains buried in a shallow grave in Redd’s backyard.
An autopsy determined he died from a single gunshot wound to the head, coroner’s officials said.
Redd claimed he killed Rubalcaba in self-defense because the young man had threatened to kill him, Wong said.
Wong said he argued to the jury that Redd likely killed Rubalcaba because of a personal dispute, and had become “fed up” with the young man hanging around his home.
Redd was expected to receive 40 years to life in prison when he returns to court May 9 to be sentenced by Judge Raul Sahagun, the prosecutor added.
LA HABRA – The second of three gang members accused of fatally beating and slashing the throat of an 18-year-old La Habra man outside a Halloween party in 2009 pleaded guilty to his role in the slaying Thursday, authorities said.
Rene Antonio Lobos, 18, of La Habra was 15 years old when he took part in the Oct. 31, 2009 killing of Joshua Mora-Rodriguez of La Habra, officials said. Mora-Rodriguez, the son of two Los Angeles police detectives, had recently graduated high school and preparing to join the Army at the side of his death. He had no gang ties.
After more than three years of court proceedings, Lobos pleaded guilty Thursday in Santa Ana Superior Court to voluntary manslaughter, and admitted the the sentence-enhancing allegation that the crime was gang-related, Orange County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Farrah Emami said. Under a plea agreement, an additional charge of street terrorism was dismissed.
He was immediately sentenced to 16 years in state prison, Emami said.
A total of three young men were charged in connection with the killing.
A jury convicted Steven Salvador Hernandez, 20, of La Habra, in May of second-degree murder and street terrorism for Mora Rodriguez’s killing, officials said. He was sentenced in July to 15 years to life in prison. He was 17 years old at the time of the killing.
A third defendant, 23-year-old Francisco Nuno, has denied the same charges and was due in court May 15 for a pretrial conference and hearing to set a trial date, Emami said.
Though minors at the time of the killing, Lobos and Hernandez were tried as adults.
Mora-Rodriguez was attacked by a group of gang members, which included the three defendants, shortly before midnight on Halloween, 2009, as he left a house party in the 1000 block of East Francis Avenue, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Duff. The party was hosted by a female friend of one of the suspects.
Prior to the fatal attack, two of Mora-Rodriguez’s friends had been involved in a fight by several other young men at the party, Duff said.
As Mora-Rodriguez and his friends were leaving the party, they became involved in an argument, then another fight, with the same group, officials said.
Six to eight gang members joined the attack, in what was described by witnesses as an “ambush,” Duff said.
Lobos beat the victim with a baseball bat while Nuno pummeled Mora-Rodriguez with his fists, the prosecutor said. Hernandez then used a knife to cut Mora-Rodriguez throat, fatally wounding him.
Detectives continue seeking the public’s help in the mysterious slaying of a retired school teacher found dead inside her Temple City home on Easter Sunday.
Carmen Garcia, 65, was discovered Sunday morning by her daughter, who had become worried about her after being unable to reach her for several days, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Though initially believed to have been shot to death, an autopsy performed on the body of Carmen Garcia, 65, determined that was not the case, Sgt. Ken Clark of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
“She was actually not shot,” he said. But due to the ongoing investigation, he declined to say how she did die, adding that that fact may be known only to the killer. “I can’t tell you the manner of death, but she was not shot.”
Coroner’s officials declined to discuss the case due to a security hold placed on it by sheriff’s homicide detectives, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
There was no obvious motive for someone to kill the “very well-liked” woman, Clark said.
“I’ve been working homicides for more than 15 years. This case troubles me. It really does,” he said.
Detectives Thursday continued pouring over evidence collected from the crime scene and searching for those who could provide a useful piece of information, Clark said.
“We are definitely going to need the public’s help,” the sergeant said. “We’re looking for anyone in the community that saw something unusual, however so slight.”
Though Garcia’s body was discovered shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday, Clark said it has likely been there for at least one day. Coroner’s investigators were working to determine a more specific time of death.
There were no signs of forced entry to the home in the normally quiet neighborhood, Clark said.
“It’s unknown if items were missing,” he said. “We believe they were.”
“It appears to me that the person responsible may have spend some time in the house,” Clark added.
Garcia, a longtime Temple City resident, retired at the end of the 2011 school year from Independence and Century high schools in Alhambra, where she worked with at-risk students. The campuses were devastated by news of her killing, school officials said.
She was looking forward to spending her retirement with her husband of more than four decades, Arturo, friends said. But he died late last year.
“She was known in the neighborhood,” Clark said. “She’d take daily walks. She was upbeat.”
Anyone with information was asked to contact Sgt. Clark or Detective John Fredendall of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
PHOTO courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
TEMPLE CITY — A 65-year-old woman was found shot to death Sunday in a residential neighborhood, authorities said.
The woman was found shot and pronounced dead shortly before 9 a.m. in the 10300 block of Key West Street, Sgt. Rich Pena of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement.
No suspect was in custody in connection with the death investigation, Deputy Mark Pope added.
Sheriff’s officials declined to release any further information.
Her name was not available late Sunday, coroner’s officials said..
A former Glendora man was released from prison after 27 years when his 1985 murder conviction was overturned last year has filed a claim against the county, as well as a detective and the estate of another detective who investigated the case.
Frank O’Connell, 55, was convicted of slaying of 27-year-old Jay French in South Pasadena on Jan. 5, 1984. He has maintained that he was innocent of the crime.
But after more than 27 years in prison, and assistance from the nonprofit organization Centurion Ministry, which is dedicated to freeing wrongly convicted prisoners, O’Connell’s conviction was thrown out March 29 of last year by Pasadena Superior Court Judge Suzette Clover, who cited major problems she found with O’Connell’s trial.
“Police officer investigating his case withheld critical information,” said O’Connell’s attorney, Barrett Litt. “(They) gave misleading information in reports which led to a conviction.”
By law, police and prosecutors must turn over all evidence, including exculpatory evidence, to the defense, Litt explained. “That’s a very well-established rule.”
“It came out that they withheld notes that they had written contemporaneously with interviews,” Litt said.
In overturning O’Connell’s conviction, Clover also pointed out that a key witness in the original 1985 murder trial have since recanted his testimony and claimed a detective pressured him to identify O’Connell as the killer.
Prosecutors did not seek to re-try the case, saying they were unable to gather sufficient evidence.
Litt said a claim against Los Angeles County was filed Monday, Litt said. Also named as defendants in the case are one of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide detectives who handled the investigation, along with the estate of his partner, who is now deceased.
The claim seeks unspecified damages, the attorney said. In past cases, juries have awarded $1 million for each year a person was wrongfully imprisoned.
Since his release from prison last year, O’Connell has moved to Colorado where he works at a cabinet shop, Litt said.
MONTEBELLO — A man accused of ambushing and fatally shooting his 24-year-old wife early Saturday when she showed up for work at a Washington Boulevard restaurant turned himself in to police in Whittier Sunday, authorities said.
Arthur Andrade Jr., 29, of Tustin, arrived at the Whittier Police Department shortly after 2 a.m. and turned himself in, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rich Pena and county booking records. He was booked on suspicion of murder in the slaying of Sonia Esperanza of East Los Angeles
The couple was in the process of getting a divorce, and Esperanza had obtained a restraining order against her husband, Lt. John Corina of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said.
The shooting took place about 8:15 a.m. in the parking lot of Chago Ahogados, on Washington Boulevard at 4th Street, sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
It was not clear if Andrade followed Esperanza to work, or perhaps waited nearby until she arrived, but he confronted her while she was still sitting in her Ford Focus in restaurant’s parking lot, Corina said.
“An argument ensues,” he said. “He pulls out a gun and shoots her.”
Esperanza was struck several times in the head and upper body, Corina said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Andrade fled the area in a dark-colored car, possibly a Ford Mustang, according to Montebello police and sheriff’s officials. The car was last seen heading east on Washington Boulevard.
Though still married, Esperanza was in the process of getting a divorce from her husband, Corina said.
She had obtained a restraining order against him, alleging that he had been “assaultive” toward her, the lieutenant said.
Investigators Saturday announced they were seeking Andrade as a suspect in the killing and released his photograph to the media.
The gun used in the killing had not been located Sunday, officials said.
Andrade was scheduled to appear in East Los Angeles Superior Court for arraignment Tuesday.
Anyone with information can reach the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
PHOTO of Arthur Andrade Jr. Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
A convicted murderer who absconded from his parole in 1980 was arrested this week in Monrovia, authorities said.
Prior to his arrest Sunday by parole agents outside a Monrovia Home Depot store, Richard Bradford, 60, was living in Pasadena and ran a drug rehabilitation facility in town called the Eaton Canyon Treatment Center, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials said in a written statement on the agency’s blog, CDCR Today. But he was living under the assumed name James Edward Heard.
Bradford received a life sentence in prison at age 18 in 1971 for a fatal shooting and robbery, according to the CDCR. The slaying took place in Santa Clara County, CDCR spokesman Luis Patino said. He declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Bradford was paroled from prison in December of 1978, but fled from his parole supervision less than two years later in September of 1980, officials said.
He was wanted ever since, according to the CDCR, and in March of 2010, the California Parole Apprehension Team renewed an investigation into Bradford’s whereabouts.
Bradford’s attorney contacted officials in 2011 to negotiate his client’s surrender, but Bradford never turned himself in.
CPAT agents carrying out a surveillance operation Sunday spotted Bradford and his wife exiting their home, and followed them to a Home Depot store in Monrovia where they were arrested without a struggle, officials said. Bradford’s wife was arrested on suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of pepper spray.
Documents under the names of Bradford and Heard were found at his home, aurthorities added, and his identity was confirmed via his fingerprints.
It was determined that Bradford had obtained a false birth certificate and social security card while still imprisoned in 1977 and 1978, officials said.
“Bradford began using the name James Heard off and on beginning in the mid-1980s, and by 1992 Richard Bradford had disappeared on paper,” according to the CDCR statement.
He had kept a low profile by keeping his financial assets and property in a trust, with very little activity tied to the name James Heard, officials added.
POMONA — Police have increased patrols and other efforts in Pomona in response to four fatal shootings in six days, authorities announced Wednesday. Four men between the ages of 18 and 24 have died and another was wounded in the four separate shootings, which took place March 7, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Pomona police officials said. “The department’s homicide detectives and Gang Suppression Unit are diligently investigating the incidents and will continue to do so until all persons responsible are brought to justice,” Pomona police Capt. Michael Olivieri said in a written statement. “The department has begun to deploy additional officers on overtime to supplement the investigative and field crime suppression units,” the captain added. Preliminary investigation indicated the shootings were not directly related, Olivieri said, however, “none of the incidents are considered a random act of violence.” No arrests were made, and Pomona police released no suspect descriptions in any of the slayings. The most recent killing took place about 8:22 p.m. Tuesday at an apartment complex in the 1100 block of Murchison Street, according to Pomona police Sgt. Hector Rodriguez. Officers responded to reports of a shooting and discovered 18-year-old Michael Castillo of Pomona lying on the ground, mortally wounded. He was pronounced dead a short time later. A 20-year-old Pomona man, Christopher Cotinola, died Sunday after he was found shot inside an apartment in the 700 block of North Gordon Avenue, Pomona police Sgt. Steve Congalton said. Officers were checking on a report of “shots fired” just after 9:30 p.m. when they found Cotinola suffering from gunshot wounds to his “mid-torso,” Congalton said. He was rushed to a hospital and treated along the way, but died from his injuries. About 24 hours earlier, another man — 19-year-old Joseph Cook — was shot and killed in the driveway of a home in the 2200 block of Carlton Avenue, Pomona police officials said. His city of residence was not available. Cook was pronounced dead at the scene of the 9:32 p.m. shooting, Congalton said, while a second shooting victim, a 19-year-old man, was flown by helicopter to a hospital for treatment of injuries determined not to be life-threatening. The recent spate of killings began March 7, with the fatal drive-by shooting of 24-year-old Kelly Buruan of Los Angeles as he walked with a child and two strollers about 2:20 p.m. in the 900 block of West 9th Street, Pomona police and Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s officials said. Anyone with information on any of the shootings was asked to contact Pomona police detectives Bebon or Lange at 909-920-2095.