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Arrest of Brothers in Barroom Slayings Shocks Defendants' Close-Knit Family


As their parents and sisters watched in tears, two brothers from a working-class Atwater family appeared in court Tuesday, accused of killing two men and wounding a third after a fistfight in a dingy Glendale tavern last week.

Rodolfo Marquez, 21, and Manuel Marquez, 25, were each charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the Friday night shooting at the Rustic Inn. A third man, Constancio Villagrana, 25, of Bell, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit murder.

Dead are Oscar Lemus, 24, and Jose Davila, 33, both of Glendale. A third victim, Javier Maldonado, 48, of Glendale, is in serious condition at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

The shooting has devastated the close-knit Marquez family, and family members say they live in fear of retaliation. In their small, tidy apartment, Armando Marquez, 50, and his wife, Irma, and other family members waited for news Tuesday, fearing any passer-by they did not recognize.

Twice over the weekend, they had called police to report license numbers of cars carrying people they suspected want to get them. A friend guards their home.

They want to find Rodolfo and Manuel a competent attorney but don't know where to look. They want to talk to them, but have not been allowed to.

"They are good boys," Armando Marquez Sr. said. "They all work."

Rodolfo, he said, works on a nearby assembly line and Manuel is an auto mechanic. When Rodolfo and Manuel left home, each moved only a couple of blocks away. The family, Armando Marquez said, always stayed together.

The family fell apart the day after Thanksgiving. The father does not deny the allegations against his sons, but he doesn't know why the shooting occurred.

Investigators would give no explanation as to why the brothers allegedly shot the men. The prosecutor in charge of the case said she is trying to determine the motive for the fistfight that led to the shooting.

The answer may lie with life in Glendale's worst part of town.

It was business as usual at the Rustic Inn on Monday--the bar on San Fernando Road in the industrial area of Glendale has been open for business since the day after the shooting.

By early afternoon, Latino factory workers and day laborers had begun strolling into the dark, dusty bar. Faded beer signs hung on the walls. On the floor were a jukebox stocked with Mexican ballads and four worn-out pool tables. About half a dozen men quietly nursed their drinks at the bar.

No one wanted to talk about the shooting, except for a waitress. "He just walked in here and started shooting," she said. "Everybody in here was peaceful and minding his own business."

The waitress said she froze when she saw two men walk in the back door of the crowded bar, one of them carrying a gun. She said she had never seen the gunman before.

Court documents say Manuel and Rodolfo Marquez and Villagrana had been seen at the Rustic Inn half an hour before the shooting. A fistfight broke out and the three men went to Manuel's house to plan retaliation, the documents say.

When they returned, Rodolfo Marquez and Villagrana entered the bar, prosecutors say. Rodolfo Marquez carried a loaded .22-caliber handgun given to him outside by his brother Manuel, who waited in a getaway vehicle, the documents say.

Rodolfo fired eight to 10 shots at the three victims, the documents say, and all three suspects fled.

Ricardo Rivas, 34, who rents an apartment above the bar, said he was not particularly surprised by the shooting. The bar, he said, was notorious for brawls.

"The police come here three or four times a week," he said Saturday morning, as he hosed down the bar's parking lot. Even so, he said, the bar's patrons "are always out here all the time smoking marijuana."

In recent months, the area surrounding the Rustic Inn has attracted a fair share of the Glendale Police Department's attention.

Victor Martinez, 17, was mowed down across the street from the bar last April by rival gang members in the city's first recorded drive-by killing.

Last week two women were arrested less than a block away--their arms scarred by needles--and charged with being under the influence of heroin, police reports said. At least one of the two had been booked earlier this year on prostitution charges.

On the night of the shooting at the Rustic Inn, more than a dozen police units and three ambulances converged at the bar within minutes of the shooting, said Sgt. Karl Ward, a police spokesman.

Officers responded quickly because they were breaking up a fight less than a block away, police said.

Ward said that after an early morning stakeout Saturday, officers with search warrants moved in on the apartments of Manuel and Armando Marquez. They took Manuel, Rodolfo, Armando Sr. and Armando Jr., 24, into custody and confiscated the pick-up truck allegedly used in the getaway and several handguns. Villagrana was arrested at the scene of the shooting.

One of the guns belonged to Armando Sr. Police said he was released because of insufficient evidence. Armando Jr. was held until late Tuesday, but he was released after prosecutors decided not to press charges against him.

At the arraignment Tuesday afternoon, Rodolfo and Manuel Marquez seemed angry and defiant. They rarely glanced toward the back rows, where family members weeped silently. The victim's families were not present and could not be reached for comment.

Public defenders assigned to the defendants asked for more time to prepare for the complex case. Municipal Judge Charles E. Horan postponed arraignment for another week.

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