Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson saved some colorful language to describe the last of several murder defendants tried in what boils down dealers stealing meth from other dealers.
In his opening statement Thursday, the prosecutor called Jose Felix Zepeda, 41, of Los Angeles, "the ring leader," "the shot caller" and the leader of a "revenge caravan." (Dibs on Revenge Caravan as the name of my new reality show!)
Come on, you remember the case of Anaheim's fifth murder of 2012. According to Mendelson's opening as reported by City News Service: It started with a plan by drug dealers to steal $24,000 worth of meth from other drug dealers. Alma Lopez Trinidad, 27, put the scheme in motion by introducing her co-horts Leder Vazquez Sanchez, 29 and who also went by Luis Arreola, and Juan Carlos Carranza, 26, to the mark, 28-year-old drug dealer Agustin Vazquez Velazquez.
On April 25, 2012, Sanchez and Carranza went in one vehicle and Mario Ramirez Ortega a second one to Montebello to "buy" three pounds of meth from Velazquez and Kain Espinoza, 28. Ortega hung back as the lookout.
Velazquez and Espinoza had their own lookout, Zepeda. Sanchez and Carranza robbed the dealers at gunpoint and tied them up with shoe laces, but Velazquez broke free and ran out to Zepeda, who spotted Ortega, chased him, abducted him and forced him at gunpoint to lead him and several others back to Anaheim, a half mile from the Happiest Place on Earth.
Carranza spotted Zepeda and his band of merry thugs and split, but Sanchez was shot twice in the back, staggered a few doors down from his residence and died. Zepeda got back the drugs from Sanchez's roommates and then decided to "extort" Ortega, Velazquez and Espinoza out of $5,000. But that plan fell apart when Anaheim police investigating Sanchez's death linked a cell phone the dead man had on him to Ortega, who went on to help detectives set up a sting that netted Zepeda, Velazquez, Espinoza and his girlfriend, Rocio Alejandra Badilla.
Carranza and Trinidad pleaded guilty in January to robbery charges, but he got 14 years in prison to her three years because he also copped to a sentencing enhancement for using a gun. In December, Velazquez and Espinoza pleaded guilty to conspiracy and admitted to a sentencing enhancement for possession of drugs. They are scheduled to be sentenced later in March. Badilla pleaded guilty to extortion and was sentenced to three years in prison, or the amount of time she'd served in custody awaiting trial.
Zepeda is the only defendant with a murder count hanging over his head that could send him to prison for life without the possibility of parole with a conviction. His attorney, Kevin Gallagher, deferred his opening statement to the jury Thursday, City News Service reports.