Gang murder case heads to jury
JOSHUA TREE • Jurors are set to begin deliberations Wednesday in the trial of two Barstow gang members accused of murdering a fellow gang member — a hit authorities believe was ordered by the Mexican Mafia.
Rolando Gamez, 35, and Claudio Jimenez, 34, were both present at Joshua Tree Superior Court on Tuesday as attorneys gave closing arguments, wrapping up a substantial yet concise trial that began two weeks before. They are charged with first-degree murder of Gilbert Chavez, 28. All three were members of the Barstow-based gang Los Gents.
Prosecutors allege Gamez, Jimenez and Tomas Quintana, also a Los Gents gang member, drove a drunken Chavez to a desert area near “the Heights” where Jimenez shot him in the head and left him to die. Authorities believe Chavez’s murder was ordered by the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang also known as La Eme.
Quintana, 27, was also charged with Chavez’s murder, though he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in October. In his plea deal, Quintana agreed to testify about the night Chavez was killed in exchange for six years in prison.
During trial Quintana testified he was not present at Chavez’s murder — a different story than one he told police prior to trial. During a recorded interview with Barstow Police Det. Leo Griego, Quintana said he and his comrades drove out to the desert where he saw Jimenez shoot Chavez in the head. Quintana will appear for a plea compliance hearing Thursday, where Judge Rodney Cortez will determine whether his testimony was truthful.
Lasky said many of the witnesses, friends and family of the defendants and victim also recanted previous statements given to Griego.
In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Connie Lasky told jurors it was up to them to determine which were true: statements to police or testimony in court.
Gamez’s attorney, Jim Terrell, did not return messages for comment Tuesday. Jimenez’s attorney, Kerry Ganahl, previously said she does not publicly comment on cases during trial.
During his closing argument, Terrell told jurors Quintana had told police what they wanted to hear during his initial interview, Lasky said. Terrell argued Quintana testified truthfully when he said he didn’t witness Chavez’s murder.
Ganahl argued there wasn’t enough evidence to prove her client was guilty, other than Griego’s statements, Lasky said.
Gamez and Jimenez are charged with first-degree murder with sentencing enhancements. If convicted, they could each face 60 years to life in prison.
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