UPDATE, FEB. 15, 3:53 P.M.: Lots of news on the Santa Ana murder front today. The Orange County District Attorney’s office announced charges against two people, including a 26-year-old man being held for murder, in Thursday’s slaying of Trisha Irene Verdugo. Sonny Steven Zieres of Orange, faces a felony murder count, sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a deadly weapon and a prior serious and violent felony conviction for assault with a deadly weapon in 2009 in Orange County and, if convicted, up to 56 years to life in state prison. Zieres was scheduled to be arraigned some time today. Claudia Alicia Trejo, 29, also of Orange, faces felony accessory after the fact and, if convicted, up to three years in county jail. She posted bail, is out of custody and awaits an arraignment date. Around 10:40 p.m. Thursday—or nearly 24 hours to the minute after the body of fatal shooting victim Joseph Frank Garcia, 23, of Orange, was found in an alley behind a shopping center on 17th Street and Grand Avenue in Santa Ana—Verdugo was mourning the death of her cousin with a group of friends and family holding vigil at the site. According to police and prosecutors, Zieres got into an argument with some mourners and intentionally drove his Chrysler 300 at the crowd in the shopping center parking lot. With Trejo sitting in the front seat, the car ran over Verdugo, killing the 27-year-old Orange resident, authorities say. Zieres and Trejo drove off and hid the 300 at another Santa Ana location before turning themselves in to police on Monday, according to the OCDA, whose Senior Deputy District Attorney Keith Burke of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting the case.
Earlier today, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas and Santa Ana City Councilman Jose Solorio announced up to $50,000 in rewards for information leading to the identification and apprehension of the killers of Garcia and two others believed to have been murdered in Santa Ana over a recent five-day span. “Clearly it’s very disturbing we had this group of homicides in such a short order,” Rackauckas said. “We’re going to get after it, we’re going to find who did it, we’re going to prosecute and we’re going to put whoever is responsible in prison for a good long time.” Said Solaria: “If you saw something and haven’t said something, you still can. If you saw something or you know something and don’t share that information with us, it’s bound to happen again.” Those who call in tips to 714.245.8648 can remain anonymous, Rojas said.
ORIGINAL POST, FEB. 15, 5:40 A.M.: Local and county law enforcement officials are scheduled to hold a press conference this morning to discuss four murders in Santa Ana since Feb. 8 as well as the police department’s monetary reward program.
Scheduled to appear at 10:30 a.m. in the Santa Ana Police Department Community Room, 60 Civic Center Plaza, are: Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Santa Ana Councilman Jose Solorio.
Here is our coverage of the murders in question:
Homicide detectives believe at least some of these slayings were gang-related. As we’ve reported, the Santa Ana Police Department offers monetary rewards to anyone with information leading to the arrest of gang homicide suspects. The program applies to gang-related homicides committed within the City of Santa Ana and reward amounts can range from $100 to $50,000. To participate, call 714.245.8648 or visit www.ci.santa-ana.ca.us/pd/gang_homicide_reward.