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Victims' relatives tearfully testify about effects of 'massacre'

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice System

Maria Rodriguez wept in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

Nearly seven years after her boyfriend was gunned down by two men carrying AK-47s, Rodriguez tearfully recounted Thursday how she later broke the news to their young daughter that her father would not be coming home.

"I just told her, 'One day we're going to see him, but it's not going to be soon,'" Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez's boyfriend, Larry Marcial, 22, was one of three people killed on a quiet South L.A. street in the June 30, 2006, attack, which became known as the 49th Street Massacre.

Marcial's 10-year-old nephew David was also among those slain, as was a neighbor, Luis Cervantes, 17. David's brother Sergio Jr. was seriously wounded.

Prosecutors alleged that Charles Ray Smith and Ryan T. Moore mistook the victims for rival gang members in a tit-for-tat feud over turf, drugs and pride. None of the victims had any connection to gangs.

Smith and Moore were convicted in previous trials. Smith was also convicted of fatally shooting a construction worker. Moore was sentenced to death, but two separate juries deadlocked on whether Smith, 44, should be executed. A new jury is hearing testimony in a third attempt by prosecutors to obtain a death sentence for Smith.

Rodriguez was one of several relatives of victims who testified Thursday. She said Marcial, an aspiring singer, was a doting boyfriend who was close to their daughter, now 10.

The girl would wake her father to have him play with her outside, she said. Marcial liked to play soccer and basketball and throw water balloons with his daughter, Rodriguez said.

Their son, she said, was 8 months old when his father was killed. Marcial used to constantly ask about when the baby would walk, Rodriguez said.

"I tell him, 'Your daddy loved you a lot. He wanted to see you walk,'" Rodriguez said, as at least two jurors wiped away tears. "Every day I think about him."

Veronica Cervantes tearfully told jurors that the killing of her older brother Luis caused her difficulties concentrating at school. When she later gave birth to a boy, she named the child after him, she said.

"Ever since he passed away, my life's been hell," she said. "I feel empty. I feel lonely. I don't have my brother, my best friend."

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus asked audience members to control their emotions during the testimony and avoid crying in court.

The judge expresed sympathy for the victims' relatives but said he needed to ensure that Smith has a fair trial. "It creates an emotional situation, and that could be grounds for a mistrial," he said.

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jack.leonard@latimes.com | Twitter: @jackfleonard

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