|For Immediate Release
Case # 06NF1800
January 9, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
MALE AND FEMALE GANG MEMBERS SENTENCED FOR MURDERING 18-YEAR-OLD MAN IN UNPROVOKED ICE CREAM TRUCK SHOOTING
SANTA ANA – A male and female member of a Hispanic Placentia criminal street gang were sentenced today for shooting and murdering an 18-year-old at an ice cream truck after targeting him for living in rival territory. Jose Luis Suarez, 19, Placentia, who was 16-years-old at the time of the crime and direct filed as an adult, was found guilty by a jury on Nov. 5, 2008, of special circumstances murder committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang, street terrorism, and sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and the personal discharge of a firearm causing death. He was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Co-defendant Kandice Noel Ortega, 22, Anaheim, was also found guilty by a jury on Nov. 5, 2008, of second degree murder for the benefit of a criminal street gang, street terrorism, and sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and the vicarious discharge of a firearm causing death. She was sentenced today to 40 years to life in prison.
On May 15, 2006, Suarez and Ortega drove into a rival gang neighborhood in Placentia. Ortega was the driver of a green hatchback and Suarez was in the passenger seat. At approximately 6:00 p.m., Suarez and Ortega noticed 18-year-old Manuel Rodriguez and two of his friends, ages 14 and 15 years old, buying snacks at an ice cream truck on a residential street across from Atwood Park. The defendants recognized the victim and his friends as boys who lived in the rival gang neighborhood. Rodriguez and his friends saw the defendants driving and recognized them as gang members. Suarez and the victim’s friends recognized each other from looking at MySpace profiles.
After seeing the defendants and fearing that they might be attacked, Rodriguez and his friends attempted to run to the park to escape. Rodriguez, who was unable to run as fast as his friends because of his weight, could not keep up. Ortega made a U-turn in the car and Suarez got out and shot the victim four times in the back and one time in the arm as Rodriguez tried to run away. The victim’s grandmother, who lived nearby, came out of her home and watched helplessly as her grandson died in the park. Good Samaritans unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate the victim, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ortega and Suarez fled the scene. They got rid of the car and firearm and attempted to flee to Texas. On May 19, 2006, the defendants were arrested after their car broke down and the US Marshall Service located them in Arizona. They were brought back to Orange County on May 21, 2006, to face the murder charges.
During the sentencing today, Rodriguez’s sister made a tearful victim impact statement to the court explaining that the defendants’ families could still visit them in prison, but the only way she could see her brother was to visit his grave.
Deputy District Attorney Nico Dourbetas of the TARGET Unit prosecuted this case.