LA HABRA : 2 Girls, Man Sentenced in Gang Killing

The first two Orange County females convicted of a gang-related murder were sentenced to lengthy prison terms Friday for what a prosecutor called “a night of blasting pay-back.”

The two teen-agers, Gabriela Maldonado and Emilia Ceniseros, both 17 and from La Habra, were sentenced Friday, along with Maldonado’s brother, Edward, 18. They were found guilty last October of the murder of of Leo A. Huicochea. The 16-year-old Huicochea, who had no known gang connections, was shot while he and a friend walked through a La Habra alley.

In Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana on Friday, Gabriela Maldonado was sentenced to 24 years and four months to life in prison, nearly the maximum possible for her part in the killing, as well as car theft and drive-by shootings.

Ceniseros was sentenced to 22 years and four months to life in prison.


Superior Court Judge Richard L. Weatherspoon ordered that both women be housed at the California Youth Authority until they are 25 years old, after which they will be transferred to state prison to serve the remainder of their terms.

However, the judge warned both--who were already involved in one gang altercation while at Juvenile Hall, according to testimony Friday--that if their conduct at the CYA was not exemplary, they would be transferred to state prison “overnight.”

Weatherspoon sentenced Edward Maldonado to 22 years and four months to life in prison, but ordered him committed directly to the CYA, which means he can be released from the prison system at the age of 25.

While the probation report indicated that Edward Maldonado was amenable to treatment, the reports about the young women said that both showed little remorse or took any responsibility for their actions.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John S. Anderson said he was satisfied with the sentences. He argued Friday against defense pleas that the women be committed directly to the CYA and freed when they reach 25, but he did not object to CYA housing for them for their own protection. Anderson also did not oppose Edward Maldonado’s commitment to the CYA.

As the courtroom was emptying, Weatherspoon said, “I will tell you that this is the most difficult sentencing I have done in eight years on the bench.”

Earlier, members of Huicochea’s family addressed the court, describing Leo as a fun-loving teen with the heart of a 10-year-old, who was always making friends and family members laugh. All asked for the maximum prison sentences for his killers.

“We miss him very much,” said his sister, Leah Hanway, 28, of La Habra. “I don’t hate the people that killed him, but I hate what they did.”

Hanway asked for maximum sentences in order to “act as a warning,” because a human life has “a very high value.”

Weatherspoon echoed that warning as he sentenced each defendant, repeating that “gangs need a strong deterrent.”

Outside the courtroom, the Maldonados’ mother, Teresa, said tearfully through a translator that she asked the Huicochea family “to forgive my kids for what they’ve done.”

Another accomplice in the nightlong rampage, Marcos A. Damian, 22, was sentenced earlier this month to 21 years and eight months to life in prison for his role.

The man suspected of being the trigger man in the February, 1991, killing, Cesar Ernesto Vasquez, 19, of Anaheim, is still at large.