Fresno County

Jonathan Alonso Islas, 17; Alfred Hutchison, 17; Jesus Ricardo Villicana, 16; Cristian Mendoza, 16; Rodolfo Sanchez 16; Luis David Melgoza, 16; Sergio Lopez, 15; and Armando Bautista, 15

Eight teenagers will be tried as adults on a murder charge in connection with the gang-related stabbing death of another teen at a party near Kerman in July 2010, a Fresno County Superior judge ruled. The eight defendants — who sheriff’s detectives said are members of a Sureño gang — also face a felony charge of street terrorism. Judge Hilary Chittick made her decision after hearing more than two days of testimony from sheriff’s detectives who said the killing involved rival gang members. Jonathan Alonso Islas, 17; Alfred Hutchison, 17; Jesus Ricardo Villicana, 16; Cristian Mendoza, 16; Rodolfo Sanchez 16; Luis David Melgoza, 16; Sergio Lopez, 15; and Armando Bautista, 15, are accused of killing Albert Joseph Mendez Jr., 17. In her ruling, Chittick said testimony showed that Islas and Sanchez were lying in wait before they stabbed the victim multiple times. The other defendants kicked and punched the victim as he lay on the ground, prosecutor Robert Mangano said. Mendez was stabbed to death at a birthday party on South Standard Avenue near Jensen and Butte avenues outside Kerman on July 17. During the hearing, Mangano said the defendants were angry at Mendez because he is a Bulldog gang member and the party was on Sureño turf. Sheriff’s detectives testified that once Mendez found out he was not welcome, he and his girlfriend left the party and walked toward their vehicle. In the parking lot, Lopez started a fight with Mendez and his associates joined in, the detectives said. By the time sheriff’s deputies arrived, the defendants had scattered. But the detectives tracked down the defendants and interviewed them, which led to their arrests, Mangano said.

Inmate Hugo Cernas

Hugo Cernas was a member of the Floradora Street Bulldogs gang who murdered one victim and attempted to murder a pregnant woman and another man, None of the three victims were gang members, but innocent people caught up in gang warfare shootings in Fresno between the Bulldogs and Suranos. Hugo Cernas and Ronald Enrique Ybarra were found guilty,  of the first degree special circumstances murder and two attempted murders.

On October 5, 2001, someone in a BMW yelled out to Ybarra, “What’s up Sur?” Ybarra yelled back, “Bulldog.” From inside the BMW, someone fired several shots at him from the BMW   but missed Ybarra.

Later  that evening, Ybarra, Cernas, and another male, all armed with guns,, walked toward a house they thought  was a Sureño residence. Gilbert Medrano, his pregnant niece Mercedes López, and his friend Álvaro Romero were sitting outside the house talking, when Cernas  started shooting. Medrano was shot  in the face, López in the leg and stomach, and Romero was shot three times, fatally wounding him.

JLWOP Inmate Luis Bautista

A jury convicted Luis Bautista and his brother, Gustavo, of first degree murder while engaged in a robbery and kidnapping of victim Jesus Torres. Three other co-defendants Guillermo Villalba, Raymundo Sandoval, Sr., and Raymundo Sandoval, Jr. had all pled guilty to various offenses by the time of trial. The only defendants to proceed to trial were Gustavo and Luis.

Torres’ burned vehicle was discovered by police and a subsequent examination by  detectives discovered what appeared to be burnt human remains in the ashes in the trunk. The charred body parts  indicated that the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds, and there was no evidence to indicate that the victim was alive when the fire was started.  Evidence established that Torres was shot by one weapon, a .32 caliber pistol.

Investigators found that Torres supplied drugs for  Sandoval Sr. who was a drug dealer . Sandoval Jr. was initially charged with the murder of Torres, but he pled guilty to one count of kidnapping , one count of armed robbery , and one count of accessory to murder; he was sentenced to a term of 11 years. In exchange for pleading to the lesser counts, Sandoval agreed to testify truthfully.

About a month before he was murdered, Torres started selling drugs directly to the customers of Sandoval Sr., thereby reducing his income. Sandoval Sr. had Sandoval Jr. ask Gustavo and his brother  if  they would be interested in teaching Torres a lesson. Sandoval meant that he wanted Gustavo to beat up Torres. He did not think Torres would be killed. Sandoval never discussed killing Torres with his father Sandoval Sr.

Luis and Villalba were present when Sandoval spoke with Gustavo. The group then used a pretext to get Torres to their location.

Luis Bautista, Gustavo, and their cousin Villaba then attacked Torres with Gustavo using a 12-gauge shotgun to hit Torres. Luis had a .32-caliber pistol in his hands. Gustavo, Luis and Villalba put Torres in the trunk of Torres’s vehicle after they beat him. Villalba and Gustavo entered Torres’s vehicle and drove to a different location with the others following in the other car. Luis exited Villalba’s vehicle and walked to the back of Torres’s vehicle. Villalba and Gustavo opened the trunk of Torres’s vehicle. Gustavo was holding the shotgun and began yelling at Torres.  Luis pointed the pistol into the trunk and shot four or five times at Torres’s upper body.  The car was then set on fire.

The Bautista brothers  were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, along with determinate sentences of nine years each. In addition, Luis was sentenced to a consecutive indeterminate term of 25 years to life because he personally used a firearm to murder Torres.