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VENTURA COUNTY

Testimony Given Against Gang Member in Slaying

October 24, 2002|Jessica Blanchard | Special to The Times

A close friend of murder defendant Marcus Moralez said the El Rio gang member came to his door the morning after a high school football player was slain, clutching a newspaper story on the killing and saying, "I don't know why I did it."

His friend appeared distraught and said he might kill himself, Phillip Tinoco testified Wednesday during the second day of a preliminary hearing for Moralez, 21, who faces murder, perjury, weapons possession and street terrorism charges in the 1999 slaying of Frank Miramontez, 17.

Moralez later turned over a handgun to Tinoco, asking him to get rid of it, Tinoco said. "He said, 'We shouldn't live the lives we do,' " said Tinoco, who with Moralez was a member of an El Rio gang.

Tinoco and eight other witnesses built a case Wednesday against Moralez, who prosecutors believe shot Miramontez six times as he sat in his car in El Rio. A mutual friend, Gabriel Camacho, testified Wednesday that days after the killing, he and Tinoco sold a gun in Ojai for $40 and some marijuana.

A few weeks after the slaying, Moralez claimed the shooting had been an accident, said Daniel Gonzales, a fellow gang member who said he and Moralez occasionally met to smoke marijuana. Moralez said he had attempted to steal the victim's car stereo because he needed money to support his drug habit, Gonzales said.

Another friend of Moralez reversed his testimony Wednesday, saying he had seen the victim giving Moralez a ride the night of the shooting. On Tuesday, Jesus Mendoza testified that earlier statements to police were lies.

But Wednesday, he said he had perjured himself the day before because he feared retribution from Moralez's associates. "Yesterday, I was scared something was going to happen [if I testified]. But I couldn't hold it in any more," he said. "I couldn't hurt [Miramontez's] mom any more."

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