A murder trial is underway for a Rancho Cucamonga man accused of fatally striking another man with his car following a fight in Pico Rivera, officials said.
Opening statement were heard Friday in Norwalk Superior Court in the case of Alfred Campos, 39, court officials said.
He’s charged with murder in connection with the Oct. 29, 2011, death of 38-year-old Richard Quintana Becerra of Pico Rivera, which occurred about 1:20 a.m. at Telegraph Road and Passons Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Thomas said shortly after the incident.
The men were believed to have been involved in a fight nearby before Campos got into his vehicle and intentionally ran over Becerra as he was in the street, Thomas said.
Paramedics pronounced Becerra dead at the scene, officials said.
Witnesses helped apprehend the suspect by flagging down a patrol deputy who happened to be in the area and directing the deputy toward Campos’ fleeing vehicle, according to Thomas.
Deputies caught up with Becerra and arrested him at Slauson Avenue and Boer Street in an unincorporated county area west of Whittier, officials added.
The investigation was handled by detectives from the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau.
NORWALK — A judge reduced a Pico Rivera man’s murder conviction to voluntary manslaughter Thursday and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, officials said.
A jury last month convicted Robert Redd, 53, of second-degree murder for fatally shooting 19-year-old Joseph Rubalcaba of Pico Rivera and burying his body in a shallow grave in Redd’s backyard in the 8500 block of Pico Vista Road in July of 2011, according to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Brandon Wong. The jury also found true three sentence-enhancing special allegations related to using a gun in the crime.
He was expected to be sentenced to 40 years to life in prison at Thursday’s sentencing, the prosecutor added.
But in a highly unusual legal maneuver, Norwalk Superior Court Judge Raul Sahagun exercised his discretion to reduce the charge to voluntary manslaughter and sentenced Redd to 10 years in prison, Wong said. The maximum sentence he could have received under the law with a voluntary manslaughter conviction and the special allegations was 21 years in prison.
Wong said he, as well as Rubalcaba’s family members, were disappointed by the decision.
“I believe the jury has spoken based on the evidence, and they said it was second-(degree murder),” he said. “I disagree with the court, but it’s within the court’s discretion.”
Rubalcaba’s aunt, Melinda Rodriguez, said the entire family was stunned and upset over Thursday’s court proceedings.
“We are in awe and shock and disbelief of why the judge would do this. Why would he go against the jury?” she said. “The whole family is distraught right now. We just can’t believe it.”
“It’s a slap in the face, not only to us, but to the jurors,” Rodriguez said. “The whole family feels like justice wasn’t served. It’s like he was murdered all over again today.”
Rubalcaba’s body was found by family members July 20, 2011, in a shallow grave in the backyard of Redd’s home, where the young man was known to frequent, officials said. Rubalcaba had been staying with red off and on for about two months leading up to his death.
The family members had gone looking for Rubalcaba, after he went missing in the days before his body was found.
Redd maintained that he shot Rubalcaba because the young man was a gang member who had been threatening to kill him, but Wong argued that Redd shot the Rubalcaba to death as the result of a personal dispute.
Though the jury apparently rejected the self-defense argument made by Redd’s attorney in returning a second-degree murder conviction, Judge Sahagun apparently disagreed, Wong said.
“He indicated that he believed the defendant actually was in fear for his life, though that belief was unreasonable,” Wong said.
The defense attorney, listed as Christine Rodriguez of the Office of the Los Angeles County Public Defender, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Wong said the court proceedings Thursday came as a surprise to him.
In his more than 12 years as a prosecutor, he said, “I have not personally, in my experience, heard or seen a court reduce a murder conviction to manslaughter.”
Rodriguez said she found Redd’s self defense argument unbelievable.
If someone justly kills someone else in self defense, “Your first reaction is going to be to call 9-1-1, not to keep the body for a day or days and bury it in the backyard,” she said. “It takes a sick mind to do that — a murderer — and that’s what he is.”
The aunt said she believed the judge reduced Redd’s charge largely because the victim, Rubalcaba, had gang ties.
Rubalcaba is survived by his mother, grandmother, two brothers and a sister, Rodriguez said.
“Like I told Mr. Redd — whatever his name is: Joseph’s never going to be able to get married, have children, have a chance to make good things happen in his life,” Rodriguez said. “You cut it down. You shot him in the head.”
PICO RIVERA — Deputies are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man who stabbed three people during an argument outside a local bar.
The stabbing was reported at 12:10 a.m. Monday in the parking lot of the Iguana Bar in the 8500 block of Rosemead Boulevard.
The three victims, a 28-year-old Long Beach woman, a 33-year-old Downey man and a 48-year-old man from Pala, were still in the hospital Tuesday, according to Sgt. Joe Van Damme of the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station.
Authorities still don’t know what started the argument which led to the man suddenly stabbing three people.
Lt. Joe Mendoza said the man was last seen driving northbound on Rosemead Boulevard and out of view.
The suspect was described as Latino, 65, 5 feet 5 inches tall and about 180 pounds. He was driving a blue Honda Accord.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station at 562-949-2421. Anonymous tipsters may call “Crime Stoppers” at 1-800-222-8477, or by texting the letters “TIPLA” plus the tip to 274637, or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.
- Ruby Gonzales
PICO RIVERA — Two deputies pulled an unconscious man from a smoke-filled apartment Wednesday during a fire officials said appeared to have been set intentionally.
The rescued man and the two deputies were all taken to a hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation following the incident, which took place about 1:30 a.m. at an apartment complex in the 8600 block of Whittier Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Smith said.
The deputies were released from the hospital later in the morning, while the 51-year-old man they pulled from the home remained hospitalized in serious but stable condition, Smith said.
Deputies Michael Calderon and George Madrid were the first on-scene, the lieutenant said.
“(They) saw thick black smoke inside the apartment and billowing out,” he said.
Neighbors were running from the fire, and one of them told the deputies that there was a man inside the burning apartment, Smith said.
“Basically disregarding their own safety, the deputies entered the unit and found an unconscious male on the ground,” the lieutenant said. “They scooped him up and they dragged him out to safety.”
Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, which remained confined to items inside the apartment and caused an estimated $1,000 worth of damage, Smith said.
The fire stemmed from flammable materials, “like papers and different things,” left on a burning stove range, the lieutenant said. It initially appeared to have been an intentional act, and investigators from the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Unit were were summoned to the scene.
The injured man was alone in the apartment when the deputies arrived, Smith said. But whether he himself started the fire remained under investigation.
PICO RIVERA — A jury Friday recommended that two men who opened fire on a crowded Pico Rivera pizza parlor in 2009, killing three people and wounding seven others, be put to death for their crimes, officials said.
Rudy Ruiz, 34, of Whittier and John Perez, 46, of Pico Rivera were ordered to return to Los Angeles Superior Court July 12 to be sentenced by Judge Robert J. Perry, court and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said.
A jury convicted the two men last week of the three counts of murder, seven counts of attempted murder and one count of 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. The jury also found true the special allegation of multiple murders, making Perez and Ruiz eligible for the death penalty under state law, as well as the special allegation that the crimes were gang-related.
“Today, jurors recommended the death penalty for both defendants,” district attorney’s office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.
The penalty phase of the trial began Monday, and the jury began their deliberations Wednesday, officials said.
“The jurors deliberated approximately two days,” Davila-Morales said. They reached their verdict about 11:15 a.m. Friday, though it was not read until 11:45 in order to give family members time to get to the courthouse for the verdict.
Though the jury recommended that Perez and Ruiz be executed for their crimes, the ultimate decision will be made by Judge Perry, Davila-Morales explained.
Handling prosecutors could not be reached for comment Friday.
Killed in the mass shooting were cousins Garret Dandini, 25, and Tony Dandini, 39, both of Whittier, along with 39-year-old Carlos Carrera of La Habra. Seven other people were wounded by the indiscriminate gunfire.
Ruiz and Lopez opened fire on a crowd at Falcone’s Pizza under the mistaken belief it was a gathering of members of the Mongols motorcycle gang, according to investigators and prosecutors.
But the gathering was actually a fundraiser hosted by the “Old School Riders,” a local motorcycle club detectives said has no ties to gang activity.
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
WHITTIER — Deputies are seeking three young men who stabbed two other young men late Friday after the victims tried to stop the assailants from bringing a tank of laughing gas into a party in an unincorporated county area west of Whittier, authorities said.
The stabbing was reported shortly after 10 p.m. at a house party in the 7600 block of Pioneer Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Meyer said.
Deputies first received a call reporting a large party, but as they were en route, a second call reported a fight had broken out, the lieutenant said.
Two 18-year-old men, both believed to be local residents, had been stabbed in their torsos, Meyer said. They were hospitalized in stable condition.
The fight erupted when the attackers showed up at the family party and tried to bring in a tank of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, Meyer said.
The two victims confronted the men and told them they could not bring the tank into the party, which led to the fight and stabbing, Meyer said.
The attackers fled the scene before deputies arrived, however detectives were following up on solid leads to track them down, Meyer said. They were believed to have ties to a local “tagging crew.”
They were described as three Latino men in their early 20s, officials said. One was between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed about 120 pounds. The second about 5 feet 8 inches tall and 165 pounds, and the third attacker as about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 195 pounds.
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.
PICO RIVERA — The identity and cause of death of a badly decomposed body discovered by county workers earlier this week on a causeway near the Whittier Narrows Dam remained unknown Thursday, officials said.
The body was discovered about 8:40 a.m. Tuesday, about 200 yards north of the Whittier Narrows Dam and 100 yards west of Pico Rivera Bicentennial Park, by Los Angeles County Department of Public Works flood control workers as they were conducting a survey, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“It is estimated the remains had been in this location for several months,” according to the sheriff’ statement.
The unidentified body was found on a bamboo-covered embankment, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said. The condition of the body prevented investigators from determining an age or sex.
An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday afternoon, Winter said.