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East Valley Focus

VAN NUYS : Letter Helped Solve Slaying, Court Told

July 23, 1993|THOM MROZEK

Police solved a drive-by killing only after a Panorama City man wrote a letter about the slaying to a fellow gang member and the correspondence was intercepted by state prison officials, prosecutors told a Van Nuys Superior Court jury Thursday.

A lengthy gang-related murder trial featuring separate juries for two defendants is expected to conclude today with prosecutors arguing that a 21-year-old man was fatally shot outside a North Hills doughnut shop on March 29, 1992, in retaliation for a gang altercation earlier in the night.

One jury heard closing arguments Thursday in the case of Jose Santos Nunez Martinez, 22, who is accused of mailing the letter to his friend.

Martinez writes in the three-page handwritten document that a rival gang had chased some members of his gang, so a group went out looking for revenge, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Franco Baratta.

Martinez and co-defendant Jorge Luis de la Riva found their target in the parking lot of a mini-mall at the intersection of Roscoe and Sepulveda boulevards in North Hills, Baratta said.

"And they were there, so I told the guys not to shoot till they got closer," the letter attributed to Martinez states. But one gunman failed to follow instructions and fired five times from a .22-caliber sawed-off rifle, Baratta said.

The letter ends by informing the prison inmate that the gang at home is avoiding the streets because "one of them died, so the cops were looking for us."

Miguel Cacares was shot once in the face. The bullet entered a nostril and passed through his brain. He died at the site about an hour later.

The jury in the case against De la Riva, who is suspected of pulling the trigger, will hear closing arguments today.

If convicted, both men face potential sentences of about 35 years to life in state prison.

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