3 more charged in Modesto gang killing, officials say
MODESTO, Feb 20, 2013 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Three more people were charged in connection with what officials say was a planned gangland killing in Modesto last week, bringing to 10 the number of suspects in the case.
The suspected gunman in the deadly attack on Vera Cruz Drive remains at large.
Eight of those defendants were set to be arraigned in Stanislaus Superior Court on Tuesday, but because there were so many, the court did not have time to appoint a defense attorney for each.
The group is alleged to have been involved in the beating, stabbing and shooting of 20-year-old Erick Gomez on Thursday night in the 2400 block of Vera Cruz. During the stabbing, the suspects yelled Sureno gang challenges, according to a criminal complaint.
The Sureno gang members met at a nearby park to "plan and prepare for retaliation against Norteno gang members for acts of violence perpetrated on Sureno gang members," the complaint reads.
As they drove around Modesto in several vehicles, the suspects questioned potential victims about their gang affiliation by asking if they "bang," flashed gang signs at perceived Norteno gang members and confronted perceived Norteno gang members by referring to them by the slur "buster."
Friday, police arrested Nancy Rodriguez, 18, of Modesto; Jeanette Robles, 20, of Modesto; Elida Carranza, 21, of Modesto; Lisandro Mendoza, 20, of Winton; and siblings Jesse James Sebourn, 22, of Ceres and Jenna Cheyenne Sebourn, 20, of San Mateo. Sunday, two more suspects were arrested: Michael Terrill Sebourn, 53, and Danny Leon Copeland, 56.
During the assault on Gomez, defendant Dalia Mendoza, 17, was stabbed, but police have not said how or by whom. She remains hospitalized but was listed on the criminal complaint and is expected to be discharged and booked in time to appear in court for the rescheduled arraignment hearing Thursday, said Deputy District Attorney Thomas Brennan.
A 10th suspect and the accused shooter, Giovani Barocio, 21, is at large and wanted. A $2 million warrant for his arrest has been issued.
All of the suspects face charges of murder and conspiracy with enhancements for using a firearm and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang, which can add time to a sentence. If convicted of all charges and enhancements, Brennan said, they would be sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
He wouldn't discuss the specifics of the case, but said, "The conflict was likely brewing for a long time."
Slightly more than a year before Gomez was killed, two other documented Norteno gang members were shot and killed in front of the same Vera Cruz fourplex.
Investigators said they don't know if there is any connection between the two cases. But since then, graffiti on the back wall of a business across the street in the Coffee Plaza Shopping Center has foreshadowed the violence.
Crossed-out rival gang tagging on the wall is intended to incite violence, Brennan said. "That is a sign of gang disrespect ... when you cross out gang graffiti eulogizing another dead gang member," he said.
The eight defendants appeared in court Tuesday afternoon in the red and white jump suits worn by inmates awaiting trial on murder charges.
Bailiffs -- seven of them were in the court room, along with other law enforcement -- separated them by putting the four women on one side of the courtroom and the four men on the other.
Most of the defendants gave one- or two-word answers when addressed by the judge, but Michael Sebourn said he didn't understand the charges listed in the criminal complaint against him.
"I understand a couple of them, I just don't understand this gang stuff," he told the judge. "I ain't a gang member."
She told Sebourn he would have time to address those concerns with his attorney when he is appointed one for his arraignment Thursday at 8:30 a.m. in Department 5.
Investigators ask anyone with information on the case or Barocio's whereabouts to call Detective Robert Gumm at (209) 342-9162 or Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward. Tipsters can text information to Crime Stoppers by sending a text message to 274637; type "TIP704" plus a message.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.
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