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.
PICO RIVERA – Homicide detectives were summoned to Pico Rivera Sunday after a man’s body was discovered in an alley, authorities said.
The body was discovered about 6:30 a.m. in an alley behind the 4800 block of Layman Avenue, Sgt. Rich Pena of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau said in a written statement.
“Detectives will determine if the man died of natural causes or from foul play,” he said.
Officials at the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station deferred all comment to homicide investigators and the Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau.
No further information was released.
NORWALK – Two people were sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for fraudulently getting more than $20,000 in unemployment benefits for a Pico Rivera gang member and convicted murder. Authorities said several gang members in county jail also got a share of the money.
Jury selection started Tuesday in the trial of Juan Leonard Garcia, 48, of Pico Rivera, and Sandra Muro Jaimez, 46, of Downey, at Norwalk Superior Court when the pair took a plea deal.
Deputy District Attorney Mike Enomoto said Juan Garcia pleaded guilty to two counts of making false unemployment insurance claims and two counts of second-degree burglary while Jaimez pleaded guilty to making a false unemployment insurance claim, possession for sale of methamphetamine and felony child abuse. She also admitted to the allegation that the fraud was committed to benefit a gang, Enomoto said.
The judge also ordered Juan Garcia and Jaimez to pay restitution of $22,087 plus interest to the California Employment Development Department.
A third defendant, 26-year-old Cynthia Limas of Menifee, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit grand theft last year. Enomoto said Limas was sentenced to probation, 180 days in county jail and community labor
PICO RIVERA — Two men stole more than two-dozen iPhone and Samsung cell phones during an armed robbery at a Radio Shack early Wednesday, officials said.
The crime took place just before 9:15 a.m. at the store in the 8700 block of Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Robert Smith said.
The robbers entered the store and pointed a handgun at employees, demanding cell phones, the lieutenant said. At least some of the employees hid in a storage room.
Smith said the robbers helped themselves to about 25 iPhones and Samsung Galaxy SIII phones and fled. No getaway car was seen.
Officials described the robbers as two black men, both about 6 feet 2 inches tall and of thin build. Both wore dark clothing and hooded sweat shirts, and one had several tattoos on his neck.
EAST LOS ANGELES — A Pico Rivera man pleaded guilty Friday to stealing his great aunt’s life savings of $180,000 while he was in charge of her finances, officials said.
Sammy Acosta Jr., 43, pleaded guilty to a count of stealing from an elderly or dependent adult at a scheduled preliminary hearing setting in East Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and court officials said.
He was immediately sentenced to 96 days in jail, which he had already served pending trial, along with 30 days of community service and five years formal probation, sheriff’s Detective Christopher Derry said.
He was also ordered to pay restitution to his great aunt for the amount she had not yet recovered, which was slightly more than $115,000, court officials said. About $60,000 were previously recovered by the victim through a civil suit in 2011.
Derry said the victim of the massive theft was not a wealthy person, but had saved the money through a lifetime of hard work and thrift.
“She worked as a retail clerk her whole life,” Derry said. “She didn’t make a lot of money. But she was frugal.”
The woman wanted to make sure she had resources to take care of herself in her old age, a value instilled in her from her father, the detective said.
She gave Acosta power of attorney after she suffered a stroke and spent a month in the hospital in 2009, officials said. He was supposed to pay her bills and look over her financial affairs.
But instead, according to investigators, Acosta withdrew the his great-aunt’s life savings of $180,000 over an eight-month period in 2009 and 2010. He used it for things including vacations, auto insurance and purchases from retail outlets.
The aunt discovered her bank accounts had been drained in July of 2010 and filed a lawsuit against Acosta to get it back, officials said.
Authorities alleged he used $17,000 of his great-aunt’s money to hire an attorney to defend himself in the case, which he ultimately lost.
In addition to the financial loss associated with the crime, it affected the entire family, the detective said.
“It caused a big rift, of course,” he said. “It’s a terrible betrayal.”
Sheriff’s deputies arrested and Acosta in December.