SAN FERNANDO — Days after his ex-girlfriend testified in court that he had kidnapped and beaten her, authorities said, Parthenia Street gang member Juan Manuel Lopez called a homeboy from jail, trying to convince him to shut her up for good.
He figured that, if she died before trial, say in a drive-by shooting, he could avoid the conviction, authorities allege.
But Lopez's friend wouldn't do it, according to court records.
Instead, he told detectives, he and other Parthenia Street gang members watched as Lopez's then 17-year-old brother allegedly gunned down Melinda "Mindy" Deanne Carmody.
Even as she tried to run away into Schoenborn Street, he kept shooting, according to witnesses, and after she collapsed and began to crawl on the road, he shot a final round into her head.
She was 16.
Lopez, 25, is facing death for allegedly ordering the shooting. Because he was a minor at the time, his brother, Ricardo Lopez, faces a maximum of life in prison. The brothers' trial is to begin in San Fernando Superior Court this week.
Deputy Dist. Atty. John Nantroup declined comment on the case.
But the younger Lopez, whose nickname, "Diablo," is Spanish for devil, confessed to police days after the shooting, according to court records. He then led detectives to the murder weapon, which he had hidden in a heater in the living room of his house on Roscoe Boulevard.
At a hearing last year, members of the Parthenia Street gang and its female counterpart, Parthenia Baby Locas, testified about being contacted by Juan Lopez about killing Carmody or witnessing her slaying.
Defense attorneys representing the brothers have argued in court that the shooting was not the result of Juan Lopez's order but a rash act by his younger brother during an argument. As such, they said, Ricardo Lopez, now 19, should be charged only with second-degree murder and his older brother should face, at most, charges of soliciting murder.
Martin Gladstein, who represents Juan Lopez, declined to comment. Ida Campbell-Thomas, Ricardo Lopez's lawyer, could not be reached for comment.
According to court records, Carmody and Juan Lopez began dating in early 1995.
As their relationship blossomed, she moved in with him and his family, then went with him to Arizona, relatives and friends have said. But after they returned to California, they called it quits.
During a court hearing, Carmody easily remembered the exact date they broke up: Feb. 27, 1996.
She said Juan Lopez called her a month later, saying he wanted to come by her Panorama City house and pick up some papers, records show. She said she asked him not to, but about an hour later, at 11 a.m. on March 13, 1996, he walked into her house through the garage door and found her in the living room.
"He asked me if I wanted to leave with him. I said no, and he came after me with a knife," she said during a preliminary hearing last year on kidnapping and assault charges against Juan Lopez.
She said he hit her in the back of the neck, cutting her, and she fell onto the couch. Then, she said, he choked her until she fell to the floor.
"He said if he can't have me, no one can," Carmody told the court.
Then Lopez allegedly pulled her by the hair to her bedroom, where he shoved some of her clothes into a bag, then pulled her into a waiting car driven by a man she didn't know.
He took her to his aunt's house in Los Angeles and left, she said. Before he returned, the aunt cleaned up Carmody's wounds and drove her home.
Carmody, then 15, picked up her home telephone and called her mother. Then she called police.
'I'm scared of him," she said in tearful testimony two weeks before her death. "When I was dating him, he told me if I ever broke up with him, he would kill me."
According to court records, Juan Lopez called three people the week of Carmody's death, looking for someone to do the job for him.
He called fellow gang member George Uribe three times, LAPD homicide Det. Michael Opelt told the court, each time becoming "more emphatic, more insistent on wanting the act committed."
Uribe turned him down.
"He told him that he wouldn't do that, that he had no reason to do that for him," Opelt said.
Court records show Lopez later called a female gang member, asking her if she "would kill a homegirl." When she said it depended on what she'd done, Lopez allegedly replied: "Don't worry about it, I already have somebody doing it."
That somebody, authorities say, was his brother. Los Angeles homicide Det. Robert Bogison said Ricardo Lopez confessed to him that his brother called him twice from jail the week of the killing and asked him to shoot Carmody.
"He said [Juan] was crying and upset about the lies that Mindy Carmody had testified to in court," Bogison said. He specifically asked his brother to shoot Carmody on April 12, 1996, a Friday, the officer said.