Edelmira Corona was sentenced Tuesday to 14 years in state prison, closing the book on the murder-for-hire case reportedly born from co-worker Deborah Ann Perna's jealousy and hatred toward her brother, who was taking the reins of the family trucking business.
The only one of six defendants who did not receive either the death penalty or life in state prison without the possibility of parole, Corona was presumably rewarded for testifying against her co-conspirators. But some members of the dead victim's family have said they believe Corona orchestrated the hit and had Perna to take the fall.
Today, the late David Montemayor's sister is behind bars in Central California, where her children will have to go to visit her for the rest of her life. Her father and brother don't believe she belongs there, causing a split with Montemayor's widow, who thinks Perna is right where she belongs. Further compounding the tragedies: the family business being fought over was ultimately crushed by debt and closed.
This much no one disputes: three members of the Pacoima Flats street gang have received the death penalty for the murder of 44-year-old Montemayor, so far the only Orange County case that spawned three Death Row inmates. In the early morning hours of Oct. 2, 2002, Armando Macias, Gerardo Lopez and Alberto Martinez kidnapped Montemayor at gunpoint from Interfreight Transport Inc., the Rancho Dominguez business that he managed and was started by his father, who was in the process of retiring.
As Montemayor arrived for work, one gunman forced him back into his car and together they drove away with a second car holding the other baddies trailing them. They were all bound for Montemayor's Buena Park home, where he was believed to keep large sums of money in his garage. But Montemayor, perhaps fearing the gunmen would confront his wife and three children, managed to break out of his car about a mile from his home. His pursuers caught up with Montemayor, with Lopez and Macias firing at him. Macias was credited with the killshot to the head that "executed" Montemayor.
Macias, Lopez and Martinez then drove off but were chased by law enforcement in what became a televised, 30-minute police chase during rush hour over surface streets and freeways. A police car finally rammed their vehicle into a utility pole. One suspect who jumped out and started to run was shot in the shoulder by a cop.
As the trio was arrested, one gunman was discovered to be carrying a note listing Montemayor's home address and phone number. Detectives later traced it back to 55-year-old Perna of Anaheim. The case prosecutors would go on to lay out had Perna, Interfreight Transport's office manager, plotting to bump off her brother because she was incensed her father chose Montemayor to run the company. She would get her 34-year-old co-worker Corona to contact a gang member she knew, Anthony "Droopy" Navarro, the Pacoima Flats shot caller and, supposedly, an FBI, ATF and LAPD snitch. Droopy arranged the hit that would have the killers paid with more than $50,000 Perna wrongly believed her brother kept in coffee cans in his garage.
Navarro, 45, of Canyon Country, hired Macias, Martinez and Lopez, who was 17 at the time, to carry out the deed. In another bizarre twist to an already bizarre case: Macias stabbed Droopy 10 times with a makeshift knife in a Fullerton courthouse holding cell on Dec. 28, 2002.
With the murder plot was exposed, Pico Rivera resident Corona pleaded guilty in March 2004 to one felony count of manslaughter before going on to testify in the jury trials over the next few years against several of her co-defendants. Good thing she avoided that Fullerton holding cell.
Sentenced to die after being convicted of special circumstances murder and several enhancements for conspiracy, kidnapping, gang involvement and other felonious charges were Navarro, 35-year-old Macias and Martinez, 33, of Castaic. Pacoima's Lopez, now 27, got life without the possibility of parole because he was a minor at the time of the crime. He was convicted of murder with the special circumstances of committing the murder in the course of attempted robbery and kidnapping. Perna was convicted of the same charges, and received the same sentence as Lopez.
Authorities say Corona's prison stretch will likely be shortened by time served.
AOL News reported in April that Perna's father, Pete Montemayor, and surviving brother, Darren Montemayor, think she was railroaded and that the woman they know as "Mira" Corona orchestrated the killing. They do acknowledge that Perna did not get along with David--Pete had laughed off the false rumors of his son skimming money from the company--but the immediate family members can't get their heads around the sister actually having the brother killed. Meanwhile, they pointed to Corona apparently resenting her boss for cutting her benefits and placing her on an extended leave. They note that Interfreight Transport was near gang-bangin' Compton and theorize it could have been a target of a gang that worked through Corona to pull off the crime--and allow Perna to take the fall.
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And then there is David Montemayor's widow, who did believe in Perna's guilt, creating the split in the family. Like I said, tragic.