Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
PAROLE DENIED FOR GANG MEMBER SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS TO LIFE IN PRISON FOR UNPROVOKED 1991 SHOOTING-MURDER OF RIVAL
SANTA ANA – The Board of Parole Hearings (Board), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations, denied the parole yesterday of a La Habra criminal street gang member involved in the shooting-murder of a rival gang member in 1991. Marco Antonio Damian, 41, formerly of La Habra, is currently being held at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, CA. Damian was convicted by a jury Jan. 25, 2010, of one felony count of second degree murder with a sentencing enhancement for being vicariously armed with a firearm. He was sentenced May 7, 2010, to 15 years to life in state prison. Damian was tried and sentenced three other times for this crime in 1991, 1994, and 1996, but those convictions were later overturned on appeal. Damian will be eligible for his next parole hearing in 2018. Before denying the inmate’s parole, the Board took into consideration the facts of the case, Damian’s prison record including his serious rules violations, and his lack of credibility.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Chrisopoulos of the TARGET Unit, who prosecuted this case in 2010, appeared at the hearing to defend public safety and advocate for justice.
Murder of Leo Huichochea
On Feb. 12, 1991, Damian, then-22, and fellow gang members Emilia Ceniceros, 17, Gabriella Maldonado, 16, another juvenile gang member, and another unidentified gang member drove into a rival gang neighborhood armed with a sawed-off shotgun. The defendants believed members of a rival gang had vandalized cars belonging to Maldonado and the unidentified gang member a week earlier and were searching for rival gang members with the intention of retaliating.
At approximately 10:45 p.m., while the defendants drove around residential streets in the rival gangs’ neighborhood, they assaulted two juvenile girls and committed two drive-by shootings. Damian then switched seats with the unidentified gang member, who had been driving, and drove down Stearns Avenue. As the defendants passed an alley, Ceniceros noticed 16-year-old Leo Huichochea and identified him as a rival to her co-defendants. The victim was a member of a rival gang, but not the particular gang the defendants were targeting. Damian made a U-turn and pulled the car near the alley, where Huichochea was standing with a friend. Using the sawed-off shotgun, the unidentified gang member murdered the victim by shooting him one time in the face. The defendants fled the scene in the car driven by Damian. Ceniceros, the juvenile, and Gabriella Maldonado were found guilty in a court trial in October 1991. Ceniceros and Maldonado were prosecuted as adults.
Failure to Accept Responsibility and Lack of Remorse
While incarcerated in Orange County Jail awaiting his fourth retrial, Damian demonstrated a lack of rehabilitation by being cited for several jail violations including two serious violations for possession of dangerous contraband and for possession of a jailhouse weapon, for which he was placed in isolation for five days. In the OCDA’s 2011 parole opposition letter, the People state that “correctional counselor R. Shupe conducted a short interview with the inmate to find out what his behavior was like at Orange County Jail. The inmate falsely told R. Shupe that he had no disciplinary write-ups while incarcerated in Orange County Jail.”