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Man Who Made Pair Leap From Cliff Pleads Guilty : Crime: David Salanoa, of Carson, faces up to 20 years in prison for threatening to stab his victims unless they leaped from the 200-foot precipice at Point Fermin. The two men suffered serious injuries but survived.

April 08, 1993|JANET RAE-DUPREE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An 18-year-old Carson man pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempted murder, kidnaping and robbery charges for forcing two young men to jump off a 200-foot cliff in San Pedro late last year.

David Salanoa is scheduled to be sentenced to 20 years in state prison when he returns to Long Beach Superior Court on April 21, Deputy Dist. Atty. Ken Lamb said.

He was initially charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, charges that could have resulted in a 26-year prison sentence. Those counts were reduced to second-degree after prosecutors concluded that Salanoa had acted "in the heat of passion," said his attorney, deputy public defender Barbara Horowitz.

"He was drunk and distraught . . . and the prosecution decided that those circumstances were appropriate to reduce it from premeditated attempted murder to second-degree," said Horowitz, who declined further comment on the case.

Salanoa admitted that he kidnaped 16-year-old Rodel Panis and 22-year-old Evan Rivera from Carson on the night of Dec. 21 and held them at knifepoint at the top of the Point Fermin cliff, telling them to choose between being stabbed to death or jumping from the precipice.

Police said Salanoa blamed the youths for the suicide of his 14-year-old brother, who had shot himself in the head in front of Rivera and several other people the day before. The suicidal boy apparently was distraught that his uncle had been shot to death by police in a confrontation on Dec. 19.

Terrified, Panis and Rivera climbed a four-foot-high chain-link fence and stepped over the edge of the rocky precipice. Fifty feet below is a line of scrub brush, and then the cliff drops another 150 feet to the rocky coastline.

Rescue workers speculated at the time that the youths' fall was broken by the scrub brush and that they survived because they managed to roll the rest of the way down the sharp incline, instead of falling straight to the rocks below.

Both were seriously injured in the fall. Panis, whose jaw and ribs were broken, managed to stumble about 250 yards in the dark along the rocky shore and then climb a steep cliff path to seek help for himself and Rivera, who remained below semiconscious with head and internal injuries.

Guests attending a Christmas party at a house above the cliff called an ambulance for Panis and stayed with Rivera until he was rescued by helicopter several hours after his fall.

Lamb said both Panis and Rivera have recovered from their injuries.

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