YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

O.C. Trio's Killing Carefully Planned

Violence: The gunman primed himself with drugs and music for the Colorado slayings, police say.


BAYFIELD, Colo. — A vengeful Colorado teenager carefully planned the execution-style murders of three Orange County men, right down to the violent rap song that accompanied his macabre crime, the man's friends and authorities said Thursday.

Joseph Edward Gallegos, 18, a recent juvenile parolee who won his release with the help of one of his victims, primed himself for violence by heavily using methamphetamine and continually playing gangsta rap music, according to several sources.

Friends said the teen had lately been captivated by an artist known as Brotha Lynch Hung, a rapper with gang ties whose lyrics are laced with expletives, racial slurs and references to murders and shootings. One of Gallegos' favorites was "Locc 2 da brain."

Shortly after midnight Tuesday, in the house he shared with the three Orange County men, Gallegos turned Lynch Hung's violent lyrics into reality. Firing his 9-millimeter Baretta handgun from close range twice at each man, he hit two in the head, the other in the head and chest.

"It was a gruesome crime scene," said Bayfield town Marshall Jim Harrington.

Despondent over being left by his girlfriend, Gallegos contemplated killing her, his friends said. The Orange County men may have been a warmup, one friend said.

Jeb Bryant, pastor of the Calvary Chapel of the Four Corners, and Zac Stankovits befriended Gallegos several months before the murder spree. The two former Orange County residents, schooled at the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, thought they were helping Gallegos turn his life around, with Bryant even vouching for Gallegos with the Colorado youth authorities who granted his parole.

But for three days before the murders, Bryant said Thursday, Gallegos had reverted to his old self, talking crazy and snorting crystal meth, a form of amphetamine that often leads to severe bouts of paranoia.

"Joe was probably cranked up for days and the music was wiring him and giving him the courage to do the unthinkable," Bryant said.

Although Bryant and others say Gallegos appeared to have accepted his breakup with Heidi Hocker, an 18-year-old college freshman from nearby Ignacio, inwardly he seethed. The two met last spring at a Calvary Chapel youth group and then began dating while they both worked at a pizza parlor last summer.

"It's really hard, really confusing, right now. I have nightmares still, but I know that I'm safe now and thankful that it's all over with," Hocker said Thursday.

"I really don't have any hard feelings toward him at all. I did care about him, and do now."

Gallegos made several vain attempts to reconcile with Hocker after she broke up with him about a month ago. The two had met through church and had what Hocker described as a "wonderful relationship" in which Gallegos had been a gentleman, bringing her flowers and always opening the door for her. But then Gallegos became "too possessive" and Hocker broke up, she said.

When Hocker spurned his attempts to get back together, Gallegos seemed "disappointed" but never showed signs of violence, she said. But the apparent acceptance of the breakup didn't last.

Monday night, after yet another unsuccessful attempt to win Hocker back, Gallegos began screaming at her over the telephone. Then early Tuesday morning, many surmise, Gallegos snapped. He crept around the blue, two-bedroom hilltop house that overlooks Bayfield High School, pulled the phones from the wall, locked the doors at some point, and coldly executed his roommates.

Gallegos then took the keys to a Toyota 4-Runner that belonged to one of his victims and drove across the state to Greeley, in Northern Colorado. Just after 9 a.m. he strode into the University of Northern Colorado and met Hocker as she was walking down the hall toward her dorm room.

She told him to leave her alone and as she opened the door of her room, he pushed himself in and took Hocker and her three roommates hostage.

About 30 minutes later, Hocker said, she pretended that she had to go to the restroom, which was down the hall.

"When I got down the hall, I took off, and that's when he shot me," Hocker said. "He told me, 'Why did you do that? Do you think that I'm playing games with you, Heidi? ' "

After screaming at her, Gallegos promptly ripped off his flannel shirt to bandage her wound, she told The Times in a Thursday interview. Then he later brought her "something to drink" and took a blanket and wrapped it around her, all the while still wielding a gun at the women in another dorm room down the hall from Hocker's.

Once inside the dorm room, the man known as "Crazy Joe" to authorities in rural southwestern Colorado played a soundtrack tape of "The Crying Game," the mournful title song of a film about lost love, alienation and violence played against the backdrop of Ireland's civil unrest.

"He told me he came up here to kill me," Hocker said. "He said I took his life and he wanted to take mine."

Hocker said she tried to reason with Gallegos, reminding him that he had just been paroled and was out of trouble.

Los Angeles Times Articles