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5 Gang Members Guilty in Santa Clarita Slaying

The defendants, ranging in age from 16 to 23, face life sentences. Seven more await trial.

August 14, 2003|Michael Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

Five members of a Canyon Country street gang were convicted Wednesday of murder and conspiracy for the brutal stabbing and beating death of an alleged rival in January 2002.

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for three days before returning verdicts against Randy Franco, 22; John Romero, 21; Alfredo Hernandez, 23; Mario Aguillon, 16; and Katherine Mary Henson, 22.

All five face life prison terms without the possibility of parole for the killing of 19-year-old Byron Benito. They are to be sentenced in October.

As the verdicts were read in the courtroom packed with family and friends of the defendants, Henson wiped away tears.

Thirteen other alleged gang members were charged in the Benito case. Seven are awaiting trial and six others have pleaded to criminal charges or agreed to testify for the prosecution, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Colello said.

Benito was targeted because he was believed to be a member of a gang thought to be responsible for the killing hours earlier of Victor Flores, 19, a member of the defendants' gang, Colello said.

Benito was lured to a remote industrial on the eastern fringe of Santa Clarita, where he was beaten, kicked, punched, hit with a crowbar and stabbed 33 times by the crowd, said Colello, who prosecuted the case with colleague James Garrison.

"They wanted Byron Benito as payback for their homeboy being killed," said Colello, who added that Benito was not believed to have been involved in Flores' death. "They were the judge, jury and executioner of Byron Benito."

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