A former gang member, appearing in a Los Angeles courtroom amid especially tight security, testified Thursday against four former associates accused in the 1995 "wrong way" slaying of 3-year-old Stephanie Kuhen.
Granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony, Marvin Pech, 20, told a jury he saw gang members shoot at a car traveling down a dead-end street in Cypress Park about 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 17, 1995. The gunfire killed the toddler and injured her younger brother and her mother's boyfriend.
Under questioning by Deputy Dist. Atty. Eleanor Hunter, Pech said he recalled seeing two of the defendants--Anthony Gabriel Rodriguez, 28, and Hugo David Gomez, 17--open fire on the car. Pech also said he heard gunfire coming from the entrance to the street, where he saw defendant Manuel Rosales Jr., 22, armed with a handgun. And, Pech said, he saw the fourth defendant, Augustin Lizama, 17, standing only a few feet away from a trash can that had been placed in the narrow street to block the car's exit route.
Asked why he initially lied to police about being on the street at the time of the shooting, Pech said he was afraid that he might be linked to the crime and face a life sentence. After his arrest in the case, Pech said, he decided to tell what he knew.
"My opinion is, if I withheld the truth, I would be an equal sinner as they were," Pech said of the defendants.
The witness, escorted to and from the high-security courtroom by four armed officers, will return to the witness stand Monday when testimony resumes.