Lawyers for three defendants accused of killing two people in a gang-related shooting presented their cases Tuesday, with two of them resting after just one witness. But the lawyer for the third defendant pressed on into the afternoon, and delivered on an earlier promise to show the jury a new set of suspects.
Prosecutors have built their case, in part, on the testimony of three young women who identified the defendants as the people who launched the Sept. 15, 1989, attack on La Bonita Avenue in Garden Grove. The attack, which killed 18-year-old Miguel (Smokey) Navarro and 4-year-old Frank Fernandez Jr., also left six people injured and has been described by prosecutors as Orange County's worst gang-related incident.
One or more of the women testified that Louis P. Valadez, 28, was the driver of the truck involved in the attack; that Robert P. Figueroa, 20, was a passenger, and Roman G. Menchaca, 19, was one of the gunmen in the back. All are associated with the 5th Street Gang in Santa Ana.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas Avdeef spent considerable time during the trial trying to show that it was Valadez's truck, with a unique row of lights on the cab, that was used by the attackers.
But Tuesday, Menchaca attorney C. Thomas McDonald put on the witness stand a 49-year-old man from the 5th Street neighborhood who had other information about that truck.
Rudy Maduena testified that three young 5th Street Gang members--none of them the defendants--pulled up to his house in the Valadez truck about dusk, which could have been just after the shootings. Maduena said they asked if they could borrow his van. He said no, but he agreed to give them a ride. When he got back, the truck was still in his driveway and remained there all night, he testified.
While Maduena told jurors that he did not see who drove the truck to his house, he did say that one of the three was a nephew of defendant Valadez, and that he had seen the nephew with Valadez's truck many times.
McDonald contends that it was Valadez's nephew and his two companions who were the real killers in the La Bonita Avenue shooting. McDonald subpoenaed one of the three to testify Tuesday.
In a hearing with the jury absent, the young man took the 5th Amendment and declined to answer any questions about his role in the shooting.