Two people accused in the killings of a young woman and a teenage girl in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in Montecito Heights pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a capital murder charge.
Jose Antonio Echeverria, 19, and Dallas Stone Pineda, 17, remain jailed without bail. They are expected back in court June 1, when a date will be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for them to stand trial.
They are accused in the October killings of Gabriela Calzada, 19, and Briana Gallegos, 17.
The victims’ bodies were found by a woman walking her dog at 2:20 p.m. Oct. 28, and their deaths were quickly classified as homicides. Briana was reported missing about 9 p.m. Oct. 28, roughly seven hours after the bodies were found near Mercury and Boundary avenues along a walking path through Ernest E. Debs Regional Park.
The criminal complaint alleges that the victims were killed on or about Oct. 27.
The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder while the defendants were active participants in a criminal street gang, and that the murders were carried out to further the activities of a criminal street gang.
Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Echeverria. Pineda cannot be sent to death row due to his age, even though he is being prosecuted as an adult.
The criminal complaint alleges that Echeverria personally discharged a rifle in the commission of the crimes, killing Calzada.
Police had not previously divulged a cause of death of the victims, saying only that their bodies showed signs of blunt-force trauma. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said one of the victims had been shot, and both were beaten.
Echeverria is also charged with one count each of attempted murder and shooting at an occupied motor vehicle, both allegedly committed Jan. 29. Echeverria was also charged with one count of allegedly bringing contraband into the LAPD’s Metropolitan Detention Center Jan. 30.
Police said the killings were the result of a long-running gang feud.
Gallegos was a Pico Rivera resident and student at Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies in Glassell Park. Friends said Calzada dreamed of being a wildland firefighter.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said Calzada was a participant in — and later a leader of — the Summer Night Lights anti-crime and anti-gang program in Glassell Park.
—City News Service