Cell phones and DNA on orange juice bottles helped lead to the conviction of two Los Angeles gang members Wednesday for committing a pair of home invasion robberies in Orange Hills nearly two years ago.
Victims in the home invasions were tied up during the ordeals while the men searched two houses for valuables.
A mistrial was declared on another charge related to a residential burglary that investigators believe preceded the home invasions. Jurors deadlocked 7-5 on that count, but the judge did not poll jurors on whether they were leaning toward guilt or acquittal.
Dwight Ladale Stephen, 28, and Andre Ricardo Pierson, 25, face a maximum of 106 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 21.
Co-defendant Curtis Ray Robinson, 27, pleaded guilty April 28 to robbery, burglary, assault with a firearm and street terrorism, all felonies and is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 7. He is expected to get nearly 20 years behind bars, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon.
On Aug. 12, 2013, the trio hit three homes in a cul-de-sac in Orange Hills, Zimmon said.
The first home was unoccupied and the burglars did not get away with anything because nothing of value was stored in the residence, so they went next door and tied up a husband and wife as they rummaged around for valuables, Zimmon said.
When the victims’ 22-year-old daughter got home, they bound her, as well, the prosecutor said. In that robbery, the thieves took about $40,000 in valuables, Zimmon said.
Stephen and Pierson then went to another neighboring home, broke in and tied up a husband, wife, 90-year-old grandfather and the wife’s sister, but not before a struggle with their captors, Zimmon said.
The robbers forced one of the victims to open a safe from which they stole various legal documents like passports and Social Security cards, he said. An alarm was set off during the robbery, prompting the suspects to flee.
The next day, while Robinson was under surveillance in an unrelated case, Los Angeles police arrested him after seeing him dump a bag of the legal documents, Zimmon said.
Attorneys for Stephen and Pierson argued that investigators got the wrong suspects and that it couldn’t be proven the defendants were anywhere near the Orange County crime scenes.
Investigators, however, concluded the three were at the scene of the robberies based on their cell phone use, Zimmon said. Also, the suspects drank orange juice during the heists and DNA from the discarded bottles was matched to Stephen and Pierson, Zimmon said.