A judge imposed a death sentence Friday on a San Jacinto gang member who once was a police informant before he fatally shot three men and tried to kill another because of their affiliations.
Raymond Alex Barrera, 27, was obsessed with killing rivals, people who had dropped out of Barrera’s gang and police snitches, according to authorities.
He had been convicted in September of three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, killing for the benefit of a criminal street gang and taking multiple lives in attacks that occurred during the early summer of 2013.
The same Murrieta jury in Riverside County that found Barrera guilty of the offenses recommended that he receive capital punishment, and Riverside County Superior Court Judge Stephen Gallon followed that recommendation, rejecting motions from the defense that sought to reduce the defendant’s punishment to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
According to the prosecution, Barrera selected all but one of his targets as they were walking along San Jacinto streets.
The defendant, an admitted member of San Ja, the San Jacinto Valley’s oldest street gang, was with his girlfriend, now-24-year-old Tawpash Paillia Durnin, during the killings. Durnin pleaded guilty last year to three counts of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced on Nov. 3 to 26 years in state prison.
Prosecutors alleged that Barrera was obsessed with eliminating rivals, as well as so-called “drop outs” who had deserted San Ja and “snitches,” who had assisted law enforcement. Barrera’s own reputation had been marred because of prior cooperation with police, according to court papers.
The defendant’s first victim was Juan “Spooks” Perez, attacked while walking with a friend — identified only as “W.S.” — as they headed to the El Toro Market on Main Street to purchase beer on the night of June 27, 2013.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Barrera identified Perez as a dropout and ran up behind the young man, shooting him in the back of the neck, then attempting to shoot W.S., who managed to hide underneath a car to protect himself.
Perez died at the scene, and Barrera made his getaway in Durnin’s vehicle, with her at the wheel, according to prosecutors.
The defendant’s next target was a supposed police informant, Jose “Flaco” Venegas, gunned down on June 30, 2013. According to the prosecution, Barrera employed a ruse, involving Durnin, to get Venegas to a deserted location on the Soboba Indian Reservation, where he shot him twice and left his nude body in a ravine.
The third and final murder victim was Ruben “Toker” Zavala, a member of “Hemet 13,” which had been engaged in turf wars with San Ja, according to court papers.
Prosecutors said Barrera, Durnin, then-17-year-old Robert Anthony Hernandez and another individual — identified in court papers only as a “confidential informant” — were driving in Durnin’s Dodge Caravan on the night of July 8, 2013, when they encountered Zavala crossing the 300 block of West 1st Street.
Barrera shouted, “State your name and what you bang?” But according to the prosecution’s trial brief, the young man tried to ignore the convicted felon, who jumped out of the van with Hernandez and chased the victim down, fatally shooting him with a .38-caliber pistol.
Sheriff’s detectives spent several months investigating the murders, initially tying Barrera to only one, though with the help of the confidential informant, Durnin and others, all of the killings were eventually solved.
Hernandez is awaiting trial for murder in juvenile court.
Barrera’s prior convictions include illegal possession of a firearm and obstructing a law enforcement officer.
–City News Service
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