Trial begins in Turnball Canyon throat slashing case

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.

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Bodies found in Norwalk, Long Beach linked to missing persons’ case

NORWALK — Police have linked a body found in a shallow grave in Norwalk over the weekend and another found buried in long Beach Wednesday to the investigation into a missing Compton couple, authorities said.
A teenage boy and girl were arrested on suspicion of murder in the case, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Sheriff’s and coroner’s investigators unearthed the body of a woman in Norwalk about 10 a.m. Saturday, officials said. It was buried just below the ground in the side yard of an abandoned property in the 11800 block of Norwalk Boulevard.
The woman remained listed Thursday as a Jane Doe at the coroner’s office pending positive identification, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said.
Concerned family members contacted sheriff’s officials Tuesday to report a couple had gone missing under “suspicious circumstances,” according to the sheriff’s statement.
The following day, using information given to them by the family of the missing couple, investigators found a second body buried in a shallow grave in a vacant lot at Atlantic Avenue and Rates Boulevard, officials said. The second body also had not been identified Thursday.
The causes of deaths for both people remained under investigation.
A 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl have been booked on suspicion of murder in connection with the killings and were being held without bail at a juvenile detention facility, authorities said. Their cities of residency were not available.
“The female juvenile is related to the missing couple, but their exact relationship has not been disclosed,” according to the sheriff’s statement.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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Teenage girl killed, two men wounded in high school shooting

This tragic story comes courtesy of the Associated Press:

LONG BEACH — A 16-year-old girl died and two men were wounded after being shot following a football game at a Long Beach high school.
Long Beach police Sgt. Dina Zapalski says it’s unclear what led to Friday night’s shooting at Wilson High School. Police are searching for a gunman.
The girl died at a hospital.
An 18-year-old man and a 20-year-old man sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
City Councilman Gary DeLong described the girl as “an innocent bystander who was not
involved” in the altercation.
It’s unclear if any of the victims were students at the school.

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Truck driver killed in fiery Long Beach crash

From the Associated Press:

LONG BEACH — A tanker truck hauling 8,000 gallons of ethanol crashed on a highway, exploding into an inferno that sent a river of flame into storm drains, officials said. The driver was killed.
The truck crashed around 6 p.m. Saturday when it hit the side rail of eastbound State Route 91 at the transition to Interstate 710, the Long Beach Fire Department said in a statement.
The driver’s name was not immediately released.
Witnesses said the heat was so intense it melted guardrails and all that remained of the truck were its axles and small portions of the cab.
A stream of fire flowed from the tanker into a storm drain, causing plumes of flame to spew 20 feet in the air from other storm drains.
The large quantity of ethanol in the truck fueled a huge fireball that enveloped the overpasses, Long Beach Fire Department Capt. Jackawa Jackson said. Firefighters snuffed the flames with foam, he said.
Officials worried the fire may have weakened the elevated stretch of road, the fire department said.
The cause of the crash was under investigation and the roadway remained closed while inspectors examined it.

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Road rage turns deadly

This comes from the Associated Press:

LONG BEACH– Police say a 29-year-old driver has been arrested in connection with a road rage fistfight that escalated into murder.
Long Beach police spokeswoman Nancy Pratt says Duy Tieu of Santa Ana was arrested
shortly before midnight Friday on suspicion of murdering 53-year-old George McCafferty of Long Beach.
Pratt says the two men were fighting on the Carson Street offramp of Interstate 605 when Tieu got back into his car and sped toward McCafferty, who was standing outside his Ford Escort. Tieu allegedly plowed into McCafferty and pinned him against his car, killing him.
Tieu is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

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Homeless homicides

Not a lot of new stuff to report in the Long Beach case of five people shot to death at a homeless encampment in Long Beach. Here’s what LA homeless blog is reporting:

18832-homelesshomicides-thumb-300x168.jpgJust like the murder three weeks ago of a homeless man in the Rampart area of Los Angeles, the police have not figured out who murdered the five homeless persons in Long Beach, a large city just south of Los Angeles.
<snip>.

Of course, having five people shot to death has rattled this local neighborhood.

KCBS2/KCAL9 has video from the crime scene here.

Here’s the latest story from our sister paper the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

 

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