Gang Member Sentenced to Death for Two Indio Murders - Palm Springs News, Weather, Traffic, Breaking News

Gang Member Sentenced to Death for Two Indio Murders

Posted: Updated:
Elias Carmona Lopez Elias Carmona Lopez

A gang member convicted of the execution-style killings of two men in Indio more than a decade ago professed his innocence moments before a judge sentenced him to death.

``I honestly did not do this,'' Elias Carmona Lopez told Riverside County Superior Court Judge Richard A. Erwood. ``I can't hold remorse for something I didn't do.''

Lopez, 30, apologized to the victims' families ``for their loss ... I can't imagine.''

Jurors in October recommended capital punishment for Lopez, who was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Erineo Perez and Martin Garcia on Oct. 10 and Oct. 26, 2004, respectively.

In the guilt phase of the trial, the panel found true special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, multiple murders and committing the murder for the benefit of a criminal street gang, making Lopez eligible for a death sentence.

During his statement to the court, he turned several times to members of Perez's family in the audience, urging that he was not the killer. 

``I did not murder your son, your brother,'' he said on one occasion, leading Perez's older sister, Vicki Castro, to stand and leave the courtroom.

According to Deputy District Attorney Scot L. Clark, Lopez was paid to kill Perez, who was shot several times while sitting inside his vehicle near Indio City Hall. The defendant snuck up on the 25-year-old victim from behind, the prosecutor said.

Garcia, 18, was found dead in an Indio alley, where Lopez lured him under false pretenses, claiming no animosity over their rival gang status before killing him, Clark said.

Both victims were shot several times, including in the face.

Castro, who witnessed her brother's final moments, told the judge the loss of ``Junior'' devastated the family.

``We'll never get to see what success he would have become, what he would have accomplished, where he would have been, how he would have been.

A picture on a tombstone does not suffice, your honor. It's not enough for us,'' she said. ``What the defendant took was a big part of our hearts, a huge part of my soul.''

Clark read a statement from Martin Garcia's mother, in which she said her family ``will never be the same'' and that if her son's killer ``is let out, he will do it again.''

Lopez's attorney Demitra Tolbert, echoed her client's claims of innocence.

``Normally when we get to this position, your honor, as you well know, we are asking the court to forgive, we are asking the court for leniency, we are asking the court for compassion. In this case, we don't mean disrespect, but we do still believe that Mr. Lopez is not guilty of these crimes,'' Tolbert said.

Clark argued death was the appropriate punishment for a defendant who he said demonstrated that he's a danger to others even while imprisoned.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Clark read transcripts of recorded phone calls that Lopez made while in prison in 2010, in which he gave out the home addresses of his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend, and the boyfriend's work address to other gang members. Lopez also expressed anger in the phone calls over the ex-girlfriend testifying against him.

Clark said Lopez had told her that he'd committed both murders, providing her details that only the killer would have known.

Tolbert questioned the credibility of Lopez's ex-girlfriend, citing substance abuse and a subsequent relationship with a rival gang member as clouding both her judgment and objectivity towards Lopez.

Shell casings taken from both crime scenes came from the same gun, a .22- caliber Smith & Wesson found beneath Lopez's mattress, Clark said.

Tolbert argued that the evidence did not prove the murders were committed by the same person, only that the same gun -- which her client claimed he had been holding for a friend he refused to identify -- was used.

Clark said a number of other potential suspects suggested to be the killer by the defense could easily be ruled out.

According to the prosecutor, none of the supposed killers had connections to both Perez and Garcia, and none of them could have managed to get the murder weapon underneath Lopez's mattress.

Tolbert maintained that detectives did not fully pursue the connections between those suspects and the victims to the extent necessary, saying ``law enforcement failed miserably'' in its investigation, dismissing potential suspects and not following through with DNA testing or witness interviews at both crime scenes.

Lopez was an early suspect in both killings, but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the case until July 2008, according to the prosecution. He was serving an eight-year sentence at an Arizona prison when the murder case was filed against him.

During his first trial in early 2016, jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction after about six weeks of testimony.
 

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Palm Springs

    Palm Springs Man Charged With Murder for Mother's Shooting

    Palm Springs Man Charged With Murder for Mother's Shooting

    Wednesday, November 22 2017 4:27 PM EST2017-11-22 21:27:21 GMT

    A woman shot at a Palm Springs home Monday was hospitalized in critical condition, and police were questioning several men. 

    A woman shot at a Palm Springs home Monday was hospitalized in critical condition, and police were questioning several men. 

  • Indio

    Thankful for the Life of a Fallen Hero and the Heroes Who Stepped Up

    Thankful for the Life of a Fallen Hero and the Heroes Who Stepped Up

    Wednesday, November 22 2017 11:22 PM EST2017-11-23 04:22:00 GMT

    "No we didn't have Thanksgiving for many years after that, took a long time before we could find something to find we could be thankful about," says Brenda Taylor. On Thanksgiving Day in 1987 she got the visit every law enforcement officer's wife dreads. The captain of the CHP office in Indio didn't have to speak a word. "Please tell me that he's okay, and they shook their head no," she says. Her husband 28-year-old Mark Thomas Taylor was killed by an ...

    "No we didn't have Thanksgiving for many years after that, took a long time before we could find something to find we could be thankful about," says Brenda Taylor. On Thanksgiving Day in 1987 she got the visit every law enforcement officer's wife dreads. The captain of the CHP office in Indio didn't have to speak a word. "Please tell me that he's okay, and they shook their head no," she says. Her husband 28-year-old Mark Thomas Taylor was killed by an ...

  • Palm Springs

    Friends Remember Amber Lane, Woman Allegedly Killed by Son

    Tuesday, November 21 2017 8:57 PM EST2017-11-22 01:57:19 GMT

    The Palm Springs community is grieving the loss of 36-year-old Amber Lane. Police said Lane was shot early Monday morning by her son, 19-year-old Brian Conroy. Family and friends of Lane said they are living a nightmare. "You can't possibly imagine. They loved one another just immensely," Guy Garrett said. Garrett is a close friend of Lane's and co-worker at Wangs in the Desert. He said Conroy and his mother were extremely close.  Related: Man Arrested f...

    The Palm Springs community is grieving the loss of 36-year-old Amber Lane. Police said Lane was shot early Monday morning by her son, 19-year-old Brian Conroy. Family and friends of Lane said they are living a nightmare. "You can't possibly imagine. They loved one another just immensely," Guy Garrett said. Garrett is a close friend of Lane's and co-worker at Wangs in the Desert. He said Conroy and his mother were extremely close.  Related: Man Arrested f...

Powered by Frankly