LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two teenagers were charged Thursday in the double murder of a young woman and a girl whose bodies were found last fall in a Los Angeles park popular among hiking and picnicking families in what investigators now say was a gang-related crime.
Jose Antonio Echeverria, 18, and Dallas Stone Pineda, 17, were being held without bond on charges of murder, and Pineda is being charged as an adult. Both Echeverria and Pineda are gang members known as Klepto and Trippy, respectively, according to court records.
Their arraignment is set for March 8. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.
It’s unclear if the pair have attorneys.
The charges against Echeverria and Pineda stem from the deaths of 19-year-old Gabriela Calzada and 17-year-old Briana Gallegos. A woman walking her dog found their bodies on Oct. 28 near a path in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in Montecito Heights, about five miles from downtown Los Angeles.
Investigators believe they had been killed the day before in the park.
Police Chief Charlie Beck said Echeverria and Pineda knew the victims and specifically targeted them. One of the victims was shot, and both of them were bludgeoned, Beck said.
“These victims were brutally murdered,” Beck said. “It was a horrific scene that the men and women of this police department took very personally.”
Calzada and Gallegos were fully clothed and showed no signs of sexual assault. Their head wounds were significant enough that they were barely recognizable, police have said previously.
Police declined to say what the women were bludgeoned with or whether that weapon and the gun that was used have been recovered.
Beck declined to say whether the victims belonged to gangs or go into detail why they were targeted.
“This was motivated by hatred between gangs, and unfortunately these two very young, very innocent victims fell prey to that,” Beck said. “These were young, vibrant women who certainly did not deserve to die.”
The deaths shocked people in the neighborhood surrounding the popular park, which has impressive views of downtown Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Police added officers on foot inside the park and in patrol cars in the area to assuage public fear.
“This type of crime obviously shakes a community down to its core,” Capt. Martin Baeza said. “We’ve had a community on edge for about four months.”
He said police were holding a town hall meeting in the neighborhood on Thursday night, partly to assure residents that the crime was not random and that police are continuing to patrol the area.
Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/amanda-lee-myers.
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