A 24-year-old gang member accused of joining a cohort in fatally stabbing a Banning man and wounding his son during a confrontation over loud noise nearly five years ago made his initial court appearance Wednesday.
Jerry Anthony Valdepena is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and a special circumstance allegation of killing for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
He appeared before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Hollenhorst, who appointed him a public defender and scheduled his arraignment for April 28 at the Banning Justice Center and ordered him held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility.
Valdepena’s co-defendant, Jerry Anthony Chagolla, was convicted in 2019 of the same charges that Valdepena is now facing in connection with the death of 26-year-old Jeremony Cooley.
Chagolla, 30, was sentenced in February to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
According to Banning police, about 12:30 a.m. on June 5, 2016, the defendants and others were partying at a residence in the 400 block of Alessandro Street, near Nicolet Street, creating a disturbance that prompted Cooley to walk over and request that they lower the noise level.
In response, the defendants, both convicted felons, followed and attacked the victim, as well as his young son, stabbing Cooley multiple times and slashing the boy, whose identity was not disclosed, in front of Cooley’s wife, investigators allege.
Cooley and his son were taken to San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital in Banning, where the elder victim died a short time later. The boy was treated and released from the hospital the same day.
Detectives, with assistance from the county’s Gang Impact Team, identified Chagolla as one of the perpetrators roughly 10 months later, culminating in his trial and conviction. According to police, additional investigation was required to identify and track down Valdepena, but sufficient evidence was gathered by early this year to obtain an arrest warrant, and he was taken into custody without incident on Kingswell Avenue in Banning last Friday.
According to court records, he has a prior conviction for felony evading.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: