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3:58 p.m., Feb. 19
Four persons could face life in prison without parole, now they are charged with the special circumstance of multiple-murders, in the shooting death of two children in a park in Oceanside, three weeks ago.
Thirteen-year-old Melanie Virgen and Edgar Sanchez, 15, both died of “multiple gunshot wounds” on March 13, 2013, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner.
“All four defendants, members of the same gang, got together, armed with multiple firearms, proceeded together in the same vehicle, into rival gang territory, in particular Libby Lake Park,” a prosecutor said today. “All four defendants exited the vehicle, entered the park, and proceeded up to the top of the hill where the four victims were seated on a couch in a makeshift memorial area from a prior Libby Lake homicide.”
Prosecutor Christine Bannon is a gang specialist for the District Attorney’s office. She declined to name the gangs involved, but Oceanside police have stated in past that Libby Lake Park is claimed by the Mesa Locos, an Hispanic gang.
“The defendants opened fire on all four victims, all four victims were hit multiple times, two victims killed,” prosecutor Christine Bannon said today. “The other two victims were transported to hospital and treated for significant, life-threatening injuries.”
The two persons who survived the shooting are named as David Garcia and David Rendon in court documents.
“It appears that this was the result of an ongoing rivalry with another gangset that claimed the Libby Lake territory,” the prosecutor said.
This afternoon in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse, four defendants were charged with two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Martin Melendrez, 21, and Michael Zurita, and Santo Daniel Diaz, 19, could face the death penalty, but the juvenile defendant, Kevin Brizuela, is 17 years old and therefore faces the possibility of life in prison without parole, but not death. All of the accused pleaded not-guilty through their public defenders.
(On May 3, 2011, two children were shot to death at the same place, on a hill overlooking the lake. Fernando Solano, 16, and Sandra Salgado, 14, were allegedly killed by a member of a black criminal street gang; that death-penalty case is still winding its way through the same courthouse. )
Judge Kimberlee Lagotta ordered all four defendants held on a “no bail” status, finding each of the accused “an extreme danger to the community.”