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Deadlock on Murder Count : Sylmar Man Convicted on 18 Felony Charges

Times Staff Writer

A lot of girls at Olive Vista Junior High School in Sylmar thought he was cute, Carmen Ramirez recalled of former classmate David Orlando Rodriguez. He seemed shy, she said.

So, when Rodriguez started wearing baggy pants and creased shirts, the style favored by cholos, or Latino youths usually connected with gangs, Ramirez wondered, “How could that be? He was so quiet,” she said.

Ramirez’s remarks about her former classmate and neighbor in Sylmar were made recently outside a courtroom, where she had been an observer in Rodriguez’s trial on murder, robbery and other charges. Her father was the murder victim.

‘82 Crime Rampage

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In San Fernando Superior Court on Tuesday, the shy youth that Ramirez remembered was convicted of 18 felony counts, including nine of assault with a firearm, eight of robbery and one of attempted robbery. The convictions stemmed from a 1982 crime rampage that occurred when Rodriguez was 16.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on charges of murder and attempted robbery against Rodriguez. Both charges related to the shooting death and attempted robbery of Ramirez’s father, Raymundo. The jury was deadlocked on each count, 10-2, in favor of conviction, resulting in a mistrial on both charges.

Described by investigators as a youth who “went on a crime spree to prove he was bad,” Rodriguez, now 20, faces a maximum prison sentence of 29 years, a deputy district attorney said. Rodriguez appears for sentencing before Judge Terry B. O’Rourke on April 29.

Rodriguez was arrested shortly after the 1982 crime rampage on suspicion of committing robberies over about a month’s time. Testimony during the 1 1/2-month trial showed that Raymundo Ramirez, a 51-year-old janitor, was shot in the heart Aug. 14, 1982, as he was waiting for an early-morning bus near Sylmar Park.

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Jurors Unconvinced

Prosecution witnesses identified Rodriguez as the gunman in the killing and attempted robbery, but their testimony failed to convince two jurors.

“All the witnesses the police produced had self-serving motives. I thought that the witnesses were very unreliable,” said juror Pete Placencio of Mission Hills. Placencio said that he also had doubts about the testimony of police detective William Gaida. The juror said that Gaida appeared to contradict himself several times during the trial.

Jury foreman Richard Malin of Canoga Park said there were general reservations about the testimony of prosecution witness Ignacio Perez. But, he said, there was enough corroborating evidence from three other witnesses to justify a conviction on the murder and attempted-robbery charges.

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Rodriguez, who sported on his neck a tattooed “SF,” the initials of a San Fernando gang, was a nice boy who fell in with the wrong crowd, his attorney said after the verdict. “Peer pressure at that age is so important, and they get it from the wrong area,” Madelynn Kopple said.

Important Evidence

Jurors said an important piece of evidence was a taped statement, reportedly made by one of Rodriguez’s friends, Antonio Rivera. The statement claimed that Rodriguez admitted killing Ramirez. But, Kopple said, Rodriguez may have been just bragging about something he did not do in order to impress his friends.

During the trial, Rivera denied that his voice was on the tape.

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Deputy Dist. Atty. Cesar Sarmiento said he will seek a retrial on the murder and attempted-robbery charges.


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