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Arrest made in death of Arthur Carmona

A suspect is held in the Feb. 17 killing of the Santa Ana man, who won his freedom after a wrongful conviction.

October 04, 2008|My-Thuan Tran | Times Staff Writer
  • Felix Abreu
Felix Abreu

A 21-year-old Anaheim man has been arrested in connection with the killing of Arthur Carmona, a Santa Ana man who had made headlines when he was freed from prison after being wrongfully convicted.

After months of investigation, Santa Ana homicide detectives arrested Felix Abreu, 21, Thursday on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run driving, both felonies.

Carmona, 26, was struck and killed as he ran from a party that had turned violent, authorities said.

Police were called to a Santa Ana mobile home park on the night of Feb. 17 in response to reports of a fight that had broken out between several guests at a party. They found Carmona unconscious. Witnesses told officers Carmona was running from the fight when he was run down by the driver of a pickup truck.

On Thursday, authorities identified that driver as Abreu, who they said was driving recklessly when he struck Carmona and sped off.

Abreu faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in state prison. The district attorney's office has requested bail be set at $150,000.

Carmona made headlines after serving more than two years in prison after being wrongly convicted in two armed robberies on the basis of eyewitness testimony.

Carmona was arrested just days after his 16th birthday in February 1998. A special education student, he had no prior criminal record when he was sentenced.

More than a dozen columns in The Times raised doubts about the evidence. A key witness later recanted her identification of him, and two jurors said they had doubts about his guilt.

A judge threw out the case in 2000.

Carmona had a difficult time picking up his life after spending two years behind bars, his mother said. He had trouble finding a job and was not able to join the military.

But he found his passion when he began testifying in the Legislature in support of bills intended to prevent wrongful convictions.

He became involved with the Council of the Wrongfully Convicted of California and wanted to create a similar organization based in Orange County, his mother said.

After his death, a Legislative bill was named after him. AB 2937, also known as the Arthur Carmona Justice for the Wrongfully Convicted Act, would have provided up to $10,000 for a range of social services to help wrongfully convicted people reenter society.It was vetoed last month.

"I think about the direction my son was going in, and what his accomplishments would be," his mother, Ronnie said. "He was on the right road. He made peace. He knew what he was going to do for the rest of his life."

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my-thuan.tran@latimes.com

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