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Man Given 38 Years to Life in Torrance ‘Ninja’ Killing

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gary Jose Alderete said that when he dressed all in ninja black and armed himself with nearly a dozen sharp-pointed martial arts weapons last March he planned only to scare a Torrance man who had threatened one of his friends.

Instead, he ended up murdering William Smith, stabbing him 32 times in a fight that raged through Smith’s home, leaving a trail of blood and broken furniture.

On Friday, Torrance Superior Court Judge John P. Shook, calling Alderete’s brutal attack “one of the most egregious cases that I’ve heard in the entire time I’ve been on the bench,” sentenced the 22-year-old construction worker to serve 38 years to life in state prison.

“It’s my objective, Mr. Alderete, to sentence you to the maximum term allowed by law . . . for this malicious, vicious crime,” Shook said.

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Alderete looked at Shook without emotion during the one-hour hearing, speaking only to acknowledge that he understood his right to appeal.

His attorney, William J. MacCabe, had urged Shook to reduce Alderete’s Nov. 30 conviction on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery and burglary for the March 2, 1990, attack.

“He went there only for the purpose of frightening or scaring someone,” MacCabe said, arguing that the stabbing was not premeditated murder. “The offense is not what the jury found it to be.”

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Nikola M. Mikulicich said Alderete committed the murder to prove himself to friends.

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“He wanted to show this group of people that he had an ability to kill,” Mikulicich said. “He was bragging about it.”

According to court records, events leading up the attack began on Feb. 28, 1990, when Smith confronted a man who had been having an affair with Smith’s common-law wife.

During that confrontation with Richard Grace, Smith allegedly threatened to harm Grace’s parents if the affair continued.

Grace reported the threats to his brother, Michael Grace, and Grace’s girlfriend, Stacy James. James told the Graces that Alderete was skilled in the martial arts and might be able to take on Smith.

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During an all-night planning session at Richard Grace’s apartment, where the three were joined by Grace’s roommate, Alexander Frederick, the group concocted a scheme for Alderete to break into Smith’s house and confront him. Alderete rejected the group’s offer of $150 to carry out the plan.

“I felt they needed me to defend them. They kind of looked up to me and respected me,” Alderete later told a probation officer. “The plan was that I should go over to (Smith’s) house and scare this guy. . . . I just wanted to go over there and scare him and say, ‘Leave these people alone.’ ”

At 4 a.m. on March 2, Alderete burst into the house through the kitchen door, waking Smith and his common-law wife, Cathy Mazzoni.

As Mazzoni ran, screaming, from the house, Alderete and Smith battled through the kitchen and living room.

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Paramedics took Smith to Little Company of Mary Hospital, where efforts to revive him failed.

Alderete fled the scene on foot and was arrested later that morning as he walked along 190th Street, still wearing bloodstained black clothing. He later told investigators that he did not remember stabbing Smith.

A coroner later counted 117 separate injuries on Smith’s body, including the 32 stab wounds. Any one of nine wounds could have been fatal, the coroner said.

James, Frederick and both of the Grace brothers were charged with conspiracy to commit murder for their parts in the scheme. Richard Grace since has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and, under a plea agreement, is scheduled to be sentenced to six years in state prison, Mikulicich said. Trial is pending for the other three defendants.

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