A gang member accused of joining a cohort in fatally stabbing a Banning man and wounding the victim’s son during a confrontation over loud noise must stand trial on murder and other charges, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Jerry Anthony Valdepena, 25, was arrested last year following a years-long investigation that identified him as the second person involved in the 2016 slaying of 26-year-old Jeremy Cooley.
At the end of a preliminary hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Jorge Hernandez found there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on the murder count, along with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and a special circumstance allegation of killing for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
The judge scheduled a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for Aug. 30 at the Banning Justice Center and ordered that Valdepena remain held without bail at the nearby Smith Correctional Facility.
His co-defendant, 31-year-old Jerry Anthony Chagolla, was convicted in 2019 of the same charges that Valdepena is now facing. Chagolla was sentenced in February 2021 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
According to Banning police, about 12:30 a.m. 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.
They said Valdepena and Chagolla fled just before patrol officers arrived. 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. He fully recovered.
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 ultimately gathered that enabled detectives to obtain an arrest warrant, leading to his being taken into custody without incident on Kingswell Avenue in Banning on April 9, 2021.
According to court records, he has a prior conviction for felony evading.