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Orange County

Sister Held in Murder-for-Hire Case

She and a co-worker are suspected of arranging a hit on the Buena Park businessman.

October 23, 2002|Dave McKibben and Mai Tran | Times Staff Writers

The slaying of a Buena Park businessman has taken a strange twist with the arrest of his sister on suspicion of hiring a hit man to commit the killing.

Police initially suspected road rage or robbery in the Oct. 2 fatal shooting of David Montemayor, a 44-year-old father of three who owned a Compton trucking business. Three members of the Pacoima Flats street gang were arrested the day of the shooting. Two other gang members were arrested Friday.

But on Saturday, authorities arrested the victim's sister, Deborah Ann Perna, 46, and a co-worker, Edelmira Corona, 25, on suspicion of hiring the gang members to kill Montemayor. Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Schroeder said all seven defendants are being held without bail at the Orange County Jail.

Charges against all seven defendants have been enhanced based on allegations that the killing was gang-related and committed in the commission of a robbery, Schroeder said. The special-circumstance allegations make the defendants eligible for the death penalty. Charges against each include murder, conspiracy to commit murder and kidnap for robbery in which death resulted.

According to court records, investigators believe Perna arranged on Aug. 1 for Anthony Navarro, 35, to kill her brother. In exchange for the murder, Perna told Navarro--one of the men arrested Friday--that he could rob Montemayor and keep the cash.

"I'm in shock," Susan Montemayor, the victim's wife, said Tuesday. "I'd never imagine that she'd orchestrate all of this."

Darren Montemayor, the victim's brother, also was surprised to hear of the charges against his sister.

"She's innocent," Darren Montemayor, 37, said. "I'm her brother. I know how she is."

Police say Perna gave her brother's address and phone number to Corona, who passed it to Navarro. He, in turn, arranged for three other gang members--Armando Macias, 26, Alberto Martinez, 24, and Gerardo Lopez, 17--to kidnap Montemayor, they contend.

Though the exact sequence of events is unclear, investigators believe the attackers shot Montemayor after an argument about a mile from his home in Buena Park. His body was found in the street.

Authorities have not explained what motive they suspect. But the victim's wife said he was about to gain sole control of the business with the retirement of his father. And though his father was tolerant, David Montemayor was critical of his sister's performance at work, Susan Montemayor said.

Perna, divorced with three teenage sons, has worked about two years as the company's office manager, Susan Montemayor said.

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