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CANOGA PARK : Man Gets Life Sentence in Death During Chase

April 24, 1993|THOM MROZEK

An Arleta man who claimed he was victimized by the district attorney's office was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for leading police on a high-speed chase that ended when his van plowed into a woman waiting at a bus stop in Canoga Park.

Steven Ray Pickard, 33, was convicted earlier this month of first-degree murder in the Nov. 20, 1991, death of Reyna Martinez Duarte, a 23-year-old housekeeper.

A jury also determined that as Pickard was being chased by police on De Soto Avenue at speeds up to 72 m.p.h., he was fleeing from a burglary which he and three accomplices had committed minutes earlier at a convenience store in Calabasas.

This special-circumstance allegation of committing murder while in flight from a felony left Superior Court Judge Kathryne Ann Stoltz no discretion in handing down the sentence.

During his two trials--the first ended when a jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of conviction--Pickard claimed that flawed policies of the Los Angeles Police Department were responsible for the chase and Duarte's death.

The three Mexican nationals who helped Pickard load the van with cigarettes stolen from the convenience store--Marco Ortega, 28; Jose Zuniga, 30, and Saul Dominguez, 25--pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and burglary. Stoltz sentenced all three men to six years and eight months in state prison.

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