Weekender Updater: Gang Killer, Boss Slaying, Disputed DUI Manslaughter Sentence and More

It's another busy weekend of updating as we bring details on the conviction of a gang killer of a 14-year-old, the trial starting against a former fugitive accused of choking out his boss, the disputed jail sentence given to a drunk/drugged-up driver who mowed down an elderly jogger, the sanity finding for a mother who drowned her baby girl in the tub, another stay-out-of-jail payment by an embezzling parent-teacher organization president and the new interim leader of the complaint-plagued Irvine Animal Care Center.


Armando Andres Carachure Faces Counts in 14 y.o.'s Killing That Could Bring Death Penalty

Update: Armando Carachure, 27, was convicted this week of the fatal-stabbing murder of 14-year-old Fidel Armando Guajardo in Santa Ana's Jerome Park on June 21, 2013. Carachure and a 12-year-old boy in his gang had approached Guajardo who was on his bike around 7:20 that night, asked his gang affiliation and along with other gang members chased him down when he ran. Carachure then stabbed Guajardo repeatedly in the back. Convicted of murder with special circumstances of carrying out the killing for a gang and street terrorism and sentencing enhancements for gang activity, Carachure could be sentenced to life in state prison without the possibility of parole on Feb. 20. Fernando Cuevas, who'd driven Carachure and gang brother Luis Francisco Gaytan away from the crime scene, accepted a plea deal from Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald last year and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Carachure cleaned blood from his clothing at Gaytan's home, but street terrorism charges against Gaytan were dropped this week. He was available to testify in Carachure's trial but prosecutors decided his testimony was unnecessary.

Gerald Guy Byrne, Most Wanted Murder Suspect and Ugly Police Mugshot Model

Update: Trial began this week for Gerald Guy Byrne, who is accused of strangling his 69-year-old employer Charles Samo in his Santa Ana office/condo some time between July 19-21, 2009. Byrne, who'd fled Orange County and was placed on the “Santa Ana Police Department's 10 Most Wanted Suspects” list, was arrested in Everett, Wash., on Oct. 22, 2011. The 54-year-old, who did small odd jobs for Samo, choked his boss to death to “silence” him from exposing Byrne's rape of his ex-girlfriend, who also worked for Samo, Senior Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Herrera said during opening statements. Jeremy Dolnick of the Alternate Defender's Office countered that Samo would send Byrne and the ex-girlfriend out to score drugs for him, that the ex- was suffering withdrawal symptoms from her heroin addiction at the time of the killing, that she slept with both Samo and Byrne while engaged to another man she eventually married and that she will testify Byrne did not rape her. Further, Dolnick claims police arrested the wrong person for Samo's murder, that it's not unusual Byrne's DNA was found in the condo because he was there so often and that he fled the area because he had been on probation since 2008. Byrne faces a maximum sentence of 60 years to life in state prison with a conviction.

Kimberly Gutierrez, 2012 OC Homicide No. 22: 2-Month-Old Drowned, Mother Arrested

Update: A jury this week found bipolar Santa Ana mother Lucero Carrera legally sane when she drowned her 2-month-old daughter in a bathtub on June 29, 2012. The 30-year-old could get 25 years to life in prison at her March 27 sentencing. She had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the trial that was broken into two phases. Jurors first found her guilty of second-degree murder before coming back in phase two with the sanity verdict, rejecting the defense contention that Carrera belongs in a state mental hospital as opposed to prison.


OC Oldsters Rock at LA Marathon

Update: Over the objections of prosecutors, Robert John Greaney was sentenced this week to a year in jail for a drug- and alcohol-fueled collision on PCH in Newport Beach that killed 81-year-old jogger Edward Salkin of Corona del Mar on June 12, 2014. Greaney, 30, of Costa Mesa, accepted a plea deal from Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald that had the driver who had booze, Xanax and marijuana in his system copping to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated without gross negligence, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs with injury, possession of less than an once of marijuana by a driver and a sentence-enhancing allegation of inflicting great bodily harm. Prosecutors, who'd earlier objected to the bail amount Fitzgerald set, and members of Salkin's family wanted prison time for Greaney, who entered rehab following the crash. “He's been incredibly distraught,” defense attorney Jeff Kent said of his client. “He's been seeking counseling.” Kent described Salkin, a retired orthodontist, as an “incredible gentleman” who did pro bono work and began running marathons in his 60s. Our story above was about his impressive time at the 2008 LA Marathon.

Gail Diane Panella-Monestere, Former Parent Teacher Group President, Accused of $22k Theft

Update: As we've mentioned in this space before, Gail Diane Monestere has been slowly repaying the Sun View Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization of Huntington Beach to avoid jail for embezzling more than $22,000 while she was the PTO president from September 2010 to February 2011. She ponied up another $1,000 this week and now owes $2,758, according to prosecutors, who will see her again at an April 7 sentencing hearing. Monestere could have her felony conviction knocked down to a misdemeanor if she fully repays the PTO, but she might still get jail time for racking up debt on her father's credit card after he died.

Irvine Animal Care Center Changes Already Under Way After Volunteers' Complaints

Update: Longtime animal advocate, Orange County health official and UCLA professor James R. Greenwood has been hired as interim administrator of the Irvine Animal Care Center, where sweeping changes have been made since volunteers publicly aired complaints about the award-winning “no-kill” shelter two months ago. Formally introduced to the Irvine City Council on Tuesday, Greenwood is to serve for three months while the city recruits a permanent IACC manager to replace senior administrator Michelle Quigley, who resigned earlier this month. Greenwood got a bachelor's degree in zoology, masters in microbiology and epidemiology and a doctorate in microbiology from UCLA. He served as deputy director, Public Health, Disease Control and Prevention for the County of Orange from 1991-94, with oversight of animal issues. He has been an assistant vice chancellor at UCLA as well as, most recently, director for California-based MuniFed Energy. While at UCLA, he also worked with and supported the campus feral cat program. Surely those IACC will let us know soon whether Greenwood is the cat's meow.

Email: mc****@oc******.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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