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2 Linked to UCI Student's Slaying Face Extradition : Crime: The pair, apprehended in Boston while riding in van authorities say was used in Aug. 17 shooting, are held on fugitive warrants. They'll return to county next week.

August 27, 1994|H.G. REZA and SHELBY GRAD | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SANTA ANA — Two men wanted for questioning in the recent murder of a UCI student, and arrested by Boston police while riding in a van used in the killing, waived extradition Friday and will be returned to Orange County early next week, authorities said.

Erica Monteiro, spokeswoman for the Suffolk County, Mass. district attorney's office, said Vinh Quoc Ta, 18, of Santa Ana, and a 17-year-old resident of Orange were arraigned Friday in Dorchester District Court.

"Both waived extradition and will be returning to California," she said.

Monteiro said the youths were being held without bail on fugitive warrants from California for violating probation. Ta was sentenced to three years' probation June 8, after agreeing to plead guilty to charges of burglarizing a restaurant in Santa Ana on Feb. 1. He and three other young men were caught only moments after they left the restaurant with the establishment's cash register.

The juvenile was also on probation, but Suffolk County authorities did not have any details about his conviction in Orange County, Monteiro said, and local authorities refused to discuss his case because he is a juvenile.

Garden Grove Police Sgt. George Jaramillo said the two were only wanted for questioning in the Aug. 17 shooting death of Robert Sapinoso, 19, of Westminster. Jaramillo said the van they were riding in when arrested in Boston had California plates and was used by the killers in the shooting of Sapinoso.

"We have not yet determined conclusively whether these (two) individuals were involved in Sapinoso's murder, but we're leaning that way," Jaramillo said. "They have not been identified by any witnesses, but they were in the suspect vehicle and that's why we want to talk to them."

The two youths were arrested Thursday by Boston police, who had been asked by Garden Grove police to be on the lookout for a silver Toyota van with California registration that homicide investigators are convinced was used by Sapinoso's killers. A third male who was in the van when it was stopped by Boston police was not arrested, officials said.

Sapinoso, an engineering student at UCI, was visiting a friend in Garden Grove on the day of the shooting. He and his friend had seen the Toyota driving up and down the street and the occupants inside acting suspiciously.

Jaramillo said Sapinoso and the friend believed the van "had been used in a vehicle vandalism or burglary in the same neighborhood several days earlier."

The two got inside Sapinoso's car and followed the van. After writing down all but one digit of the van's license number, they momentarily lost sight of it.

While Sapinoso and his friend were stopped at a traffic light, a young man who had been a passenger in the van suddenly appeared, walked up to the driver's side of Sapinoso's Honda, and fired four shots at the student. His passenger, who was unhurt, got Sapinoso into the passenger seat and drove him to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.

Jaramillo refused to say how Garden Grove police learned that the vehicle might be in Boston, except to say that "we had some information it may have been driven to the Boston area." He said the two suspects will be returned to Orange County by four Garden Grove officers early next week.

According to Department of Motor Vehicle records, the van was reported stolen "by a police agency" on Aug. 18--the day after Sapinoso's murder. Efforts to reach the owner of the van were unsuccessful, and Jaramillo declined to say whether Garden Grove police reported the van stolen or to comment "on anything relating to the van."

Ta, who had been in the Orange County Jail for more than four months while he awaited trial on commercial burglary charges earlier this year, was arrested for that crime along with three other youths, all of whom were sentenced to probation for the nighttime burglary of a Santa Ana restaurant.

Defense attorney Charles Spagnola, who represented one of the other defendants in the case, said the four broke into the closed restaurant in full view of a Santa Ana police officer, who was parked nearby.

"None of them had a prior record. They were clean until this happened and this helped them earn probation," he said.

Ta and the others attempted to escape with the restaurant's cash register but were apprehended after a brief chase. Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Victoria Chen, who prosecuted the case, said the prosecution accepted a guilty plea from each defendant in exchange for probation, because there were five people in the car used by the suspects to make their getaway, and the officer could not identify the people who broke into the restaurant.

"Each of them claimed he was the fifth guy sitting in the car while the other four committed the burglary," said Chen.

The fifth suspect was a juvenile who was tried in juvenile court, but Chen and Spagnola did not have any information about his conviction and sentence.

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