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Orange County

2 Will Be Tried in Athlete's Death

Pair plotted to kill Diego Gonzalez-Sanchez, the third part of a love triangle, authorities say. He was an El Modena High School student.

March 02, 2004|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that a 21-year-old woman and her sometime boyfriend must stand trial for killing a high school wrestler in what detectives described as a love triangle.

Veronica Paz and Brandan Dante Perry, 20, have been held without bail since the November slaying at a lovers lane in Orange Park Acres. After Judge John D. Conley issued his ruling, the defendants' arraignment was set for March 16.

"I wasn't surprised they were held over for trial," Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Murray said Monday. "I was quite confident in the evidence presented." The information supplied at the hearing, he said, was only "the tip of the iceberg" of what would be offered at trial.

Diego Armando Gonzalez-Sanchez's body -- shot twice in the head then ignited in what police said was an effort to conceal his identity -- was discovered Nov. 9 at a hilltop construction site. The 17-year-old was a senior at El Modena High School in Orange.

Paz's attorney, Bill Kelly, said during the preliminary hearing two weeks ago that the killing was unplanned and that his client had not played a direct role in the death. It had been Gonzalez-Sanchez's idea to visit the street, Kelly said, and when Perry arrived, Paz thought the two would just have a fistfight.

After the two-day hearing, Perry's mother, Felicia, said the negative testimony was fabricated and that her son "probably had something to do with the murder, but he didn't kill him."

Detectives testified at the hearing that a shared passion for Paz had spawned a rivalry between Gonzalez-Sanchez and Perry.

Friends since middle school, the defendants had plotted the killing since at least September, investigators said, when Gonzalez-Sanchez and Perry had argued at a party. Perry found a gun and practiced shooting in the desert, and Paz bought ammunition and found a secluded place to lure the victim, detectives testified.

Paz said during an interview with authorities that after the victim arrived for a rendezvous, they kissed in her backseat and smoked marijuana until Perry arrived, Orange County Sheriff's Detective Dan Salcedo said. The accused triggerman pulled Gonzalez-Sanchez from the car and shot him in the face as the teen retreated, his hands raised, authorities said.

Paz and Perry could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Kimberly Gomez, 19, and her 16-year-old brother have been charged as accessories to murder.

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