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Daughter, Boyfriend Charged in Fatal Stabbings of Family

July 29, 2000|MANUEL GAMIZ Jr. | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The 16-year-old daughter of a Pico Rivera family and her 17-year-old high school boyfriend were charged Friday with four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the stabbing deaths of four members of the girl's adoptive family.

Charges against Monica Diaz and Michael Naranjo include a special circumstance allegation of multiple murders in connection with the July 21 slayings.

If convicted, the teenagers face maximum sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. They are ineligible for the death penalty because of their ages, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Diaz and Naranjo appeared in court Friday wearing shackles and orange Los Angeles County Jail jumpsuits. Their arraignment on the charges was postponed to Aug. 11.

They were arrested Wednesday night on suspicion of having killed Richard Flores, 42; Richard Jr., 17; Sylvia, 13; and Matthew, 10. Friends said the young couple believed Richard Sr. was too strict about their relationship.

The two teenagers are also charged with attempted murder in the stabbing of Diaz's adoptive mother, who remains at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Two other 18-year-old daughters, Esperanza Flores and Laura Reta--Diaz's half sister--were not injured in the attack.

Diaz and Naranjo are being held without bail, Gibbons said.

Sitting behind a plexiglass wall, Diaz, her hair pulled back, and Naranjo, his hair shaved on the sides with a reddish tint on top, showed little emotion as they looked from Superior Court Commissioner Gerald Mansfield to relatives sitting in the courtroom.

Los Angeles Sheriff's Department sources said Friday that neither Diaz nor Naranjo confessed to the stabbings when detectives tried to interview them. Naranjo refused to talk at all, sources said. Diaz spoke to detectives, but her comments were limited.

Sources also said Diaz and Naranjo laughed quietly together and hugged briefly before being jailed. They gave no signs of remorse, sources said.

Detectives have not determined the order in which family members were stabbed. They said all the victims were stabbed and slashed as they slept in their beds.

Los Angeles sheriff's homicide Capt. Frank Merriman, who has a team of 38 investigators on the case, said Friday that the filing of charges against Diaz and Naranjo does not conclude their work.

Merriman said detectives will continue to build their case against the young couple, interviewing friends, family and others as well as continuing to collect evidence. DNA tests, for example, will take time to complete.

The district attorney's office would not comment on a motive for the attack.

Cesar Estrada, 58, biked about two miles from his home to offer a prayer at the Flores home. When asked about the arrest of Diaz, whom the Floreses adopted more than 10 years ago, he shook his head in disbelief.

At a candlelight vigil Thursday night at Rivera Park, Laura Reta, the Floreses' other adopted daughter, tried to hold back tears as she thanked the community for its support.

The Rev. Joshua Lee, a pastor at St. Hilary Catholic Church, which the family attended, said he did not know of problems between Monica Diaz and her family.

Lee said he visited Sylvia Flores in the hospital Wednesday, the day before the arrests. "I told Sylvia we will walk through this together," he said. Now with the latest development, he added, the walk will be even closer.

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Times staff writers Hugo Martin and Beth Shuster contributed to this story.

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