Murder and attempted-murder charges were filed Tuesday against two men and a 16-year-old boy in connection with last week's dead-end shooting that killed 3-year-old Stephanie Kuhen.
Marcos Antonio Luna, 23, and Marvin Alejandro Pech, 18, were held in lieu of $3.5-million bail each after an appearance in Los Angeles Municipal Court. Each faces a count of murder and five of attempted murder.
In addition, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office expects to file similar charges against a second 16-year-old today and will attempt to try both as adults, Deputy Dist. Atty. Eleanor Hunter said Tuesday.
Authorities believe the four suspects were in a Cypress Park dead-end street when a car that had turned down the gang-controlled alley was met with a hail of bullets Sept. 17. Stephanie Kuhen was killed and her brother, Joseph, 2, and driver Timothy Stone, 25, were wounded in the attack that attracted nationwide attention.
Stone said he made a wrong turn onto Isabel Street before being confronted by about a dozen gang members, several of whom opened fire.
During a brief court appearance, Luna and Pech stood in a glass-enclosed holding area and hid behind their attorneys, keeping their heads bowed to avoid being photographed by the news media.
They spoke only to say "yes" to a procedural question before filing out of the courtroom about 15 minutes later. Neither entered pleas after Municipal Court Judge Abraham Khan granted a defense motion to postpone arraignment until Oct. 11.
Hunter would not say how many of the four suspects in custody are believed to be the actual shooters. Only in the case of the 16-year-old charged Tuesday do charges specify that the defendant personally used a weapon. The charges against the remaining defendants state only that "a principal" in the offenses was armed with a handgun.
Law enforcement authorities continue to hold another adult, Vincent Caldera, 23, who was originally named as a prime suspect last week. Caldera is being held by state authorities on a parole violation but is not likely to be charged in the shooting, according to Mike Genelin, deputy district attorney in charge of the hard-core gang unit. Los Angeles police, however, said Tuesday that they still believe Caldera may have a peripheral role in the case. "He's still floating around on the edge" of the investigation, said Lt. Harold Clifton of the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division.
Although he would not comment on whether police have all the suspected shooters in custody, Clifton said he could not rule out further arrests. "Put it this way: I don't have all the people I want to talk to," he said. "We're still following up on all leads. We have a very active investigation."
Hunter also detailed for the first time the type of weapons involved in the attack. Based on shells recovered at the scene, authorities believe that .45- and .380-caliber handguns were used, Hunter said. She would not elaborate on the number of weapons involved or number of rounds fired.
Hunter said she has no disagreement with the defendants' desire to keep their faces out of public view. "I don't want their faces all over TV either," she said after the court session.
"I asked my defendant to put his head down in light of the fact that there is going to be a lineup," attorney Alex Kessel explained in court. "I take it as a very critical issue in my client's right to a fair trial."
Kessel then asked Khan to restrict publication of his client's photograph, a measure Khan denied. The judge did grant a request that law enforcement authorities not release to the media any photographs of the suspects.
Kuhen family members were not available for comment Tuesday. "They are very happy that the arraignment happened," said Steve Gooden, a minister who has been acting as spokesman for the family.
Gooden, who runs a youth ministry in Orange County, said the family hopes to establish a foundation aimed at calling attention to violence against children.