Four defendants in unusual murder case to stand trial

Men and women allegedly linked to the death of Larry Martinez

Four young adults charged with the murder of a teenager just
blocks from the Gilroy Police Department will stand trial for their
alleged crimes.
Four young adults charged with the murder of a teenager just blocks from the Gilroy Police Department will stand trial for their alleged crimes.

During the two week preliminary hearing that wrapped up this week, about 20 witnesses and police officers testified about the events leading up to and following the death of 18-year-old Larry Martinez.

“Every person saw a different part of what happened and it’s from those parts that we got a picture of the whole,” Deputy District Attorney Troy Benson said.

On Nov. 11, 2008, Martinez was shot and killed by a rival gang in broad daylight near Sixth and Church streets, according to police. Invoking a rarely-used rule – the provocative act murder theory – District Attorney Dolores Carr charged not only the man police believe pulled the trigger, alleged Sureño gang member Cristian Jimenez, but also two of Martinez’s friends and a cousin for contributing to his death for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

Robert Barrios, 21, Heather Ashford, 19, and Angel Solorzano, 20, did not intend to kill Martinez, their attorneys said. But even though they didn’t fire the gun that killed their friend and cousin, the three will stand trial on conspiracy and murder charges for contributing to Martinez’s death during a clash with a rival gang. Martinez, Solorzano and Barrios were Norteño gang members, police said during the preliminary hearing. Family members denied this, however.

Jimenez, 22, also faces a murder charge and a felony gun possession charge for pulling the trigger of the gun that killed Martinez, according to court documents.

About half an hour before the shooting, Jimenez and two other Sureños who are still at large – Edgardo Centeno, 20, and an unnamed juvenile – threw a rock at the car Martinez and Solorzano rode in while Ashford drove, according to police. After a brief discussion, Ashford, Martinez and Solorzano picked up Barrios and returned to confront the Sureños, police said. Armed with a small wooden bat, Martinez and his friends snuck up on the Sureños from behind, provoking the rival gang members to turn and shoot, prosecutors said.

The four codefendants will be arraigned on their charges 1:30 p.m. May 24 in Department 24 of the Hall of Justice in San Jose. While the preliminary hearing lasted about two weeks, Benson said he expected the trial to last at least twice as long.

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