|For Immediate Release
February 24, 2006
|Contact:||Susan Kang Schroeder
Deputy District Attorney
(714) 347-8408 Office
(714) 292-2718 Cell
THREE SAN DIEGO MEN ARRESTED FOR MURDERING IRVINE DRUG DEALER
ON SUPER BOWL SUNDAY
NEWPORT BEACH — Three friends from San Diego County were arrested for murdering a drug dealer on Super Bowl Sunday. Stephen Bennett, 34, Vista, was arrested in Arizona and extradited back to Orange County on February 22, 2006 and his neighbor Bernard Smith, 41, Vista, was arrested on February 21, 2006. Brandon Turner, 20, Oceanside, was arrested yesterday, February 23, 2006.
The three defendants have been charged with murder and robbery. They are accused of committing the murder during a robbery and using a firearm. Defendant Bennett is also charged as a third striker because he committed two robberies in 1992. Bennett waived extradition from Arizona. The minimum penalty for this crime is life without the possibility of parole. The special circumstances allegation charged in this case make these defendants eligible for the death penalty, although that determination will not be made until a later date.
The three men are accused of wanting to get drugs on February 5, 2006 after the Super Bowl. They are accused of devising a plan to get some money and drugs by robbing a drug dealer. Defendant Bennett is accused of calling Brian Gray, 36, Irvine, and setting up a drug buy. Gray was a drug dealer who lived on Parkview Lane near Culver Street and the 405 Freeway. The three are accused of driving from Vista to Irvine. Defendant Smith and Turner are accused of each shooting the victim multiple times and killing him. The three are accused of fleeing the apartment after stealing Gray’s cocaine.
Bennett and Smith appeared in court yesterday and continued their arraignment to March 17, 2006, Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach. Turner will be in the same court on Monday.
Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting the case. The Irvine Police Department is continuing the investigation.