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Mendiola Brothers Agree to Extradition

The three Lake Forest men will be returned to Idaho to face charges in a murder conspiracy.

May 24, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Three brothers from Lake Forest agreed Friday to be extradited to Idaho, where they are facing charges in the murder of a college student involved in a drug-smuggling operation.

Giovanni, Eddie and Pierro Mendiola, brothers of standout college basketball players Giuliana and Gioconda Mendiola, are to be returned within 60 days to Kootenai County.

Police allege that the brothers were among seven people hired by Brendan Butler, 20, an alleged drug dealer from Idaho who wanted two of his competitors killed.

The brothers formed a "crew" and traveled to Idaho to hatch plans for the murders, police said. But an argument erupted among them, and Giovanni allegedly killed Butler, whose mummified body was found in a national forest campground near Hayden Lake, Idaho.

Tipped off by records of Butler's last cell phone call, detectives from Idaho and Orange County questioned the family. The brothers were arrested in April.

Giovanni, 32, the alleged ringleader, faces charges of murder, robbery and kidnapping and could be executed if convicted. Eddie, 33, and Pierro, 31, face life in prison if convicted of robbery, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder.

The Mendiolas' younger sisters are on the University of Washington's women's basketball team. Giuliana was Pacific 10 Conference player of the year last season.

Eddie and Pierro wiped away tears as their mother and aunts watched from the center of the courtroom in Santa Ana.

Alicia Mendiola, 59, said her sons are innocent.

"They're being framed," she said, tears trickling down her face. "A group of drug dealers are accusing my sons."

She said she visits her sons weekly and talks to them daily. Her home is up for sale to help pay their legal fees, she said.

"They always tell me, 'Mommy, don't worry, we're going to be all right -- and when we get out, we're going to sue everyone,' " she said.

"They are not drug dealers and would never kill anyone like that."

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