A 24-year-old man who gunned down a teenage rival gang member in Santa Ana then fled to Mexico, where he was on the lam for five years, was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder.
Jesus Canales faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced May 18.
Jurors deliberated for about three hours before convicting Canales of first-degree murder for the July 22, 2011, shooting of 16-year-old Alberto Miller, who was killed while hanging out with friends on the porch of a home in the 300 block of East Washington Avenue.
The jury also found true a special circumstance allegation that the killing was committed for the furtherance of a gang.
His co-defendant, Juan Manuel Galvan, 26, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty earlier to manslaughter and will be given credit for time served in jail for six years in exchange for his testimony against Canales.
Miller, whose gang nickname was Goofy, was hanging out with friends on a side porch when he was shot by Canales, who rode into gang-rival territory with Galvan “looking for trouble,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Mena Guirguis alleged.
Galvan, who was trying to get into Canales’ gang, was smoking methamphetamine with the defendant when Canales asked him to go looking for rival gang members, Guirguis alleged in her opening statement.
Miller was shot in the leg and through the heart, Guirguis said. The two targeted the teen and his group because the porch had gang graffiti for their gang, the prosecutor said.
Galvan appeared to act as a “lookout” as Canales shot Miller, Guirguis alleged. The two fled after the shooting and ditched the bikes and gun before hiding out in a gang “safe house,” the prosecutor said.
The case would have gone unsolved if two teenage girls with the victim hadn’t recognized Galvan, who was a friendly acquaintance, Guirguis said. Galvan made “eye contact” with one of the girls, and they cursed him as he fled, the prosecutor said.
When police came looking for Galvan, he called investigators and turned himself in, Guirguis said. Galvan admitted taking part in the shooting, but was reluctant to snitch on Canales because he feared retaliation from the gang, the prosecutor said. Eventually, investigators convinced Galvan to tell them Canales shot the victim, she said.
Canales fled to Mexico, but he was caught there in July 2016 and later extradited, Guirguis said. On the plane ride back to Santa Ana, Canales said he had been deported to Mexico in 2009 and had not been back to the U.S. since, but investigators determined that was a lie because he had been checking in with his probation officer regularly before the shooting, Guirguis said.
Canales’ attorney, Gil Carreon, argued there was no evidence of anyone identifying his client as the gunman. And there was no forensic evidence tying Canales to the crime, Carreon said.
“This case hinges to a great deal on the testimony of Mr. Galvan,” the defense attorney said.
Galvan remained in custody until June of last year, Carreon said.
“He got out on his own recognizance,” Carreon told jurors. “You’ll have to decide if that is sufficient motive to tell the truth.”
–City News Service
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