The passage of time and the recent arrest of a robbery suspect have led Westminster police to apprehend two suspects in a 9-year-old murder case, police said Tuesday.
While authorities believe that 10 to 15 people were in Westminster's Sigler Park when Steven Alan Buus, 24, was murdered there on Feb. 25, 1979, witnesses were reluctant to talk to police at the time because the park was--and still is--a gang hangout, said Westminster Police Detective Mike Proctor, who has handled the case.
But in March, things began to happen in the old case. Proctor said he arrested Gabriel Ramirez, 26, of Garden Grove, as a suspect in several residential robberies. Ramirez also had been a suspect in the murder case.
Proctor said he began re-interviewing witnesses, who previously had feared retaliation from gang members if they spoke to police. With the change in gang membership over the years and one suspect already behind bars on the robbery charge, witnesses were more forthcoming this time around.
"Some did not wish to talk at all before because of the gang connotation. But because of the time span, they gave us more information than before," Proctor said.
The detective said he interviewed about 20 people, which led him to Ramirez and Paul Albert Guardado of Perris, both of whom were 17 and gang members at the time of the shooting. Ramirez and Guardado were arrested last week and now are being held without bail in Orange County Jail, charged in the slaying of Buus, Proctor said.
It appeared that protection of gang turf was the motive for the shooting of Buus, who was walking through Sigler Park at the time of the incident, Proctor said. But Buus didn't know his attackers, who shot him three times after beating him, he added.
"During those times, an average person--especially a (non-gang) person--did not frequent the park," Proctor said.
Proctor said members of the West Trece (13) gang were suspected in the attack. Both suspects were West Trece members, he said.
"That gang is still in existence today, but (the suspects) are pretty much divorced from that group," Proctor said.
A court hearing is scheduled for next month to decide whether the suspects should be tried as adults. But Proctor said the case is not over yet.
"We're hoping more people will come forward with more information," he said.