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Four arrested in slaying of two teens in Oceanside park

March 30, 2013|By Tony Perry

OCEANSIDE - Four suspected gang members have been arrested on suspicion of killing a 13-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy and wounding two teenage boys in a public park, police announced Saturday.

The four suspects are charged with two counts of murder, two of attempted murder and two of participation in a criminal street gang.

Three are adults and were booked into county jail in Vista. The fourth is a juvenile and was taken to juvenile hall.

All are suspected in the gunning down of Melanie Virgen, 13, and Edgar Sanchez, 15, and the wounding of two other teens in Libby Lake Park at 9 p.m. on March 13.

No motive for the shootings was given, but the park and the surrounding neighborhood have been the site of  gang-related crime. A 16-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl were shot to death in the park in May 2011; three people were charged with murder and are awaiting trial.

Arrested in the death of Virgen and Sanchez were Martin Melendrez, 19, and Michael Zarita, 19, both of Vista, and Santo Diaz, 18, of Oceanside. The name of the juvenile suspect was not released.

The arrests came as a task force of officers from the Oceanside, Carlsbad and Escondido police departments, the U.S. Marshal's Service, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives served search warrants on five locations in Oceanside and Vista.

At one site, a gray 2011 Toyota Tacoma with an extended cab was seized. It matched the description of the vehicle that witnesses said the gunmen were in when they sped away, police said.

After the arrests were announced, a spokesman for the families of the two teens who were killed issued a statement saying, "We insist that justice be done, but we also understand the rightful place that mercy has in the judgments of God."

Of the two teenagers who were wounded, one has been released, and the other remains in the hospital in stable condition, police said.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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