An 18-year-old--who at 15 was charged as an adult for the murder of a La Habra teen beaten and stabbed to death at a Halloween night 2009 house party--pleaded guilty last week to voluntary manslaughter with a sentencing enhancement for gang activity.
Rene Antonio Lobos, also of La Habra, was immediately sentenced to 16 years in state prison.
A fight involving gang members broke out after midnight at a party in the 1000 block of East Francis Avenue, but police at the time said they did not believe fatal stabbing victim Joshua Steven Rodriguez was a gang member. A recent graduate of La Vista continuation high school in Fullerton, Rodriguez was planning to join the military, according to family members.
The year 2009 was the first the Weekly started tracking every homicide in the county, reporting these in a column called "Just Another Orange County Murder," with the point being the human stories of the victims would show these were not just typical crimes but real tragedies involving real people (as reflected in the photo that opened this post). The title changed the following year when the column evolved into a numerical OC murder count, and this year we just started reporting homicides as we do other stories, without the count.
Shortly after Rodriguez's murder, police arrested Lobos and then 20-year-old Jose Francisco Nuno, also of La Habra. Their arrests led to a massive gang sweep performed by more than 100 officers from various federal and Orange County law enforcement agencies, which led to arrests of a dozen people for a variety of charges, including a third male tied to the Rodriguez slaying: Steven Salvador Hernandez.
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Another La Habra juvenile at the time, Hernandez was also charged as an adult and convicted in May 2012 of second-degree murder and street terrorism with a sentencing enhancement for criminal street gang activity. Nuno, who is now 23, is yet to be tried on murder and street terrorism counts with a sentencing enhancement for gang activity.
Investigators say Rodriguez and a friend may have been "party-hopping" when they unwittingly walked into a gang affair, where Nuno allegedly picked a fight with the pal. As Rodriguez and his friend tried to leave, they were jumped by a half dozen or more gang members. Nuno is accused of beating Rodriguez with his hands, Lobos was convicted of striking Rodriguez with a baseball bat, and Hernandez stuck the knife in Rodriguez's neck that killed the young man.
Two others were hospitalized with injuries from the melee.