A gang member convicted of murdering a 15-year-old boy in Carson and a woman in Lennox less than two weeks later was sentenced Friday to 150 years to life in state prison.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe denied the defense’s motion for a new trial for Taniela Fonoifua, 26, who was found guilty a year ago this month of the Oct. 17, 2015, killing of Adalberto Salcedo III, 15, in Carson, and the Oct. 6, 2015, slaying of Sheila Gomez, 40, in Lennox, along with two counts of attempted murder of a man with Gomez and a separate shooting on Jan. 26, 2016, in Gardena.
Jurors also found Fonoifua guilty of one count of possession of a firearm by a felon and determined that he personally discharged a gun during each of the crimes.
The judge rejected the defense’s contention that Fonoifua should have been tried separately from five co-defendants who were charged with two other shootings in Lennox that occurred about three hours apart, including one that left a man dead and his wife seriously wounded.
Co-defendants Otoniel Ventura-Leon, 29, Samisoni Ilifeleti Lauaki, 22, Calvin Leonard Tonga, 27, and Lebanon Fifita, 45, have been sentenced to state prison terms ranging at the low end from 80 years to life to as much as 106 years to life for the Nov. 9, 2015, slaying of Kenneth Campos, 37, and the attempted murder of his wife, wounded as the homeless couple was at the back of a doughnut shop to pick up day-old doughnuts from a storekeeper willing to help them.
Ventura-Leon, Lauaki, Tonga and Fifita were also convicted of the attempted murder of another man, who was shot and wounded about three hours earlier the same day, along with a conspiracy charge. A fifth man, Fonuamana Ofeina Fuahala, 26, was also convicted of the same crimes and is awaiting sentencing.
The jury found gang allegations against all six men to be true.
Deputy District Attorney Heather Steggell told jurors during the trial that the six defendants are members of a “violent, ruthless criminal street gang” made up primarily of Pacific Islanders who committed a string of shootings in Lennox, Gardena and Carson.
“(They) go out hunting. It’s sport for them,” the prosecutor said in her opening statement.
The prosecutor told jurors that the evidence against the six included wiretapped calls, text messages and cell phone data to pinpoint the defendants’ locations at the time of the murders, telling jurors that the men shared motive and a “hunting mentality.”
Like other gangs, they commit “graffiti, robberies, burglaries, assault with deadly weapons and murder,” but the difference with the defendants’ gang is that they “will shoot anybody,” Steggell told jurors.
Four of the victims were homeless.
Along with the three victims who were killed, four people were wounded in the series of shootings.