Romero murder suspects’ hearing postponed

Fernando Mateo Lopez, 20, from Gilroy, at a previous hearing for

The plea hearing for the five suspects accused of killing Tara Romero, 14, and trying to kill three other teens Nov. 4, 2011 was postponed.

Esmeling Bahena, 18 of Morgan Hill; Ricardo Diaz, 19 of Morgan Hill; Fernando Mateo Lopez, 20 of Gilroy; Primitivo Hernandez, 23 of San Jose; and Ramon Gutierrez, 17 of Morgan Hill appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose for a scheduled hearing Thursday. 

The plea and preliminary setting hearing was continued to May 10 at 2 p.m., according to Santa Clara County deputy district attorney Peter Waite. 

The five suspects are charged with murder and attempted murder, with enhancements for being associated with and illegal street gang.

They are accused of carrying out the Nov. 4, 2011 drive-by shooting at the corner of Cosmo and Del Monte avenues. Police said the suspects drove by the corner, which sits just outside the Village Avante apartment complex, in a Chrysler. They opened fire on a group of teenagers standing near the sidewalk and sped away.

Tara Romero, 14, was fatally shot and pronounced dead at the scene when paramedics arrived. Also shot were Rosa Castaneda, 14; Alicia Sotelo, 14 and Chris Loredo, 16.

All four victims were Sobrato High School students.

Police said the shooting was gang-related, though the victims were not associated with any gang activity. The suspected shooters mistakenly targeted the group of victims who were waiting for a ride home from a birthday party when the suspects attacked.

Police arrested the suspects shortly after the incident, when an officer on patrol saw their vehicle speed through a stop sign on Spring Avenue. After arresting the young men at the home, police found two loaded guns – one in the home and one in the vehicle. 

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