Remember Nancy Hammour, the alleged drug dealer who was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Mexican Mafia gang crackdown Operation Smokin' Aces around the same time her body was dumped from a Newport Beach bridge on Labor Day 2013?
Her killer, Irvin Tellez, was convicted this week and now faces more than 100 years in prison at sentencing. The 27-year-old was in a car with Hammour when he shot a woman in the face as she stood alongside a street in Santa Ana. When that freaked out Hammour, Tellez fatally shot her in the backseat.
Jaime Prieto Rocha, who would go on to testify against Tellez, was driving him and Hammour through a Santa Ana residential neighborhood after midnight on Sept. 2, 2013, when they spotted an unknown woman standing at the curb waiting to be picked up by a friend. The trio engaged in a conversation with the 31-year-old woman, identified by authorities as Elizabeth G., but when she signaled an affiliation with a rival gang, Tellez pulled out a gun and shot her in the face, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson.
Rocha hit the gas, and the Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) responded to reports of gunshots fired and found Elizabeth G., who was taken to a hospital and ultimately survived her injuries.
Hammour was not so fortunate. She became "hysterical" over the shooting, so much so that Tellez turned his weapon on her, also shooting her in the face, Mendelson said. Hammour slumped down onto the floorboards, still alive, before Tellez shot her in the face a second time, killing the 28-year-old, according to the prosecutor.
Rocha and Tellez then drove to Newport Beach, where they dumped Hammour's body over the side of the Newport Bay Bridge off Pacific Coast Highway. They probably hoped the body would sink into the water, but they miscalculated and she wound up on the ground near the bridge, making for a grisly discovery at daylight. The Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) joined Santa Ana cops in the investigation.
Having driven the rental car they had been in to Mexico, Rocha got into an accident, prompting him to return to the U.S. to get another vehicle. When police traced a license plate to the rental car company, employees told detectives Rocha was with a car that was broken down in Oceanside, where he was arrested. Tellez would be in custody soon after that.
Rocha, 42, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty on Sept. 4 to voluntary manslaughter and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 30 to 16 years in prison.
With the help of Rocha's testimony, Tellez was found guilty by a jury this week of first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault with a semi-automatic weapon and street terrorism charges. Jurors also found true sentencing enhancements for the use of a firearm, inflicting great bodily harm and committing the crimes to benefit a gang.
The Garden Grove resident faces a maximum of 112 years and eight months to life behind bars at sentencing Nov. 20.
The federal indictment unsealed the same month Hammour was slain alleged she sold methamphetamine for the Mexican Mafia in Orange County between March 2011 and June 2012, as well as to a police informant in February 2013. She was also recorded on a phone ordering more drugs twice from an Operation Smokin' Aces defendant, according to the federal court document. Among the county's largest gang busts resulted in 51 suspected gang members being arrested, 23 fugitives being sought and 129 cholos and their wives or girlfriends being indicted.
But Hammour's family maintained she was trying to turn her life around at the time of her death.