Wheels of justice turns, but slowly
The wheels of justice are finally turning for the families of eight local homicide victims, including two murdered children.
George Hernandez, 19, pleaded no contest earlier this year to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm in the April 2011 killing of 12-year-old Jerry Garcia, one of eight homicide cases still working their way through the local justice system.
Some of the cases go back as far as five years, while others occurred in 2012.
The oldest case is that of the killing of Xavier Taylor, 19. He was unresponsive with multiple gunshot wounds inside a grey Ford Taurus Oct. 5, 2007 in the area of Olive Avenue and G Street.
Louis Rodriguez, 19, is behind bars facing murder charges in that fatal shooting, but has yet to go to trail. His jury trial confirmation is scheduled for n Oct. 31 in Department 11 of the Visalia Courthouse. The jury trial is scheduled for Nov.
“[This case was] not submitted until 2010,” said Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Shani Jenkins, who added that because of the consequences of the case, i.e. life in prison, “It takes longer to go through the justice system,” said Jenkins.
While one case may take years to prosecute others are already resolved. To help victims’ families, the District Attorney’s office has a Bureau of Victims Assistance.
“[They] assist victims and family members [with] counseling, [and] financial consequences,” said Jenkins who explained that they also have advocates for the families who answer phone calls and assist them throughout the process.
Following is an update on the eight local homicides. They are in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent.
- Eleazar Alcantar, 50, is charged with fatally shooting his wife, Maria Ceballos Alcantar, 38, in Woodville on May 21 due to an apparent domestic dispute, and then keeping sheriff’s officers at bay for four hours. He was charged with homicide on Wednesday, May 23. A preliminary hearing confirmation is scheduled for 8:30 a.m, Sept. 7, in Department 2 of the Visalia Courthouse, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 10.
- Parrish Jones, 29 of Porterville, Raquel Espinoza, 24 of Porterville, Eric Jimenez, 28 of Strathmore, and Matthew Campos, 23 of Strathmore, are scheduled for a preliminary hearing Aug. 14 in Department 5 of the Visalia Courthouse for the March 28 killing of Jorge Ayon.
According to reports, on the evening of March 28, Ayon was at a residence in the Porterville area, visiting Raquel Espinoza, 24 of Porterville. While there, Ayon was confronted by Eric Jimenez, 28 of Strathmore, who accused him of dating Espinoza. A fight ensued, at which time Jimenez and a third suspect, Matthew Campos, 23 of Strathmore, repeatedly beat Ayon about the head and body and then strangled him to death, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department reported.
All three suspects reportedly loaded Ayon’s body into his own vehicle and took him to the abandoned building in the 2400 block of Avenue 184 in Strathmore, where he was set on fire.
- Emigdio Guzman Ojeda, 48, is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of his ex-wife Flor Ojeda, 48, of Porterville, outside her home on Aug. 2, 2011. Afterwards, he fled the scene and barricaded himself into his own home. The police were able to talk him out of his house where he was immediately apprehended by Dodge, a Porterville Police Department K9 dog. He was arraigned in the Pre-Trial Jail Facility courtroom at the county jail complex north of Visalia and is scheduled for trial at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 21, in Department 5 of the Visalia Courthouse.
- George Hernandez, 19, pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm in the April 2011 killing of 12-year-old Jerry Garcia. He was sentenced on May 9, 2012 to 13 years in prison.
On March 29, Garcia was reportedly approached in the area of Road 237 and Avenue 96 on foot by two subjects, one of them Hernandez, when shots were fired. Units from the sheriff’s department’s Gang Violence Suppression Unit were in the area when the incident was reported and were able to detain two people. The victim was found lying on the ground.
- Joseph Aaron Ulloa, 25, is charged with murder and child abuse in the October 2010 killing of his infant son 3-month-old son, Jackson Uolla. His trial date is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 21 in Department 6 at the Visalia Courthouse.
According to the Porterville Police Department, officers arrived at the 300 block of East Eastridge Court on Sept. 23, 2010 at around 10:30 a.m. to reports of an infant who was not breathing. Upon arrival, personnel began emergency medical treatment and then transported the baby to Sierra View District Hospital and later to Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera. Jackson Ulloa was kept on life support for approximately three weeks and died on Oct. 14. An autopsy further supported that the injuries were “non-accidental.”
The hospital later reported that injury was consistent with abuse and resulted in blunt-force trauma to the baby’s head, according to Police Sgt. Jake Castellow.
- Gustavo Gonzalez, 21, of Porterville, Jorge Mendoza, 32, of Poplar and Carlos “Chucks” Cervantes were arrested for a Sept. 14, 2010 botch pot robbery in which a 17-year-old from Lindsay later died.
Gonzalez pleaded no contest to robbery, assault with a firearm, and conspiracy to commit a crime. All other counts were dismissed. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Mendoza pleaded no contest to robbery and kidnapping. All other charges were dismissed.
He will be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 22 in Department 4 of the Visalia Courthouse.
No charges have been filed on Cervantes in the case.
- Armando Gonzalez, 23 and Juan Covarrubias, 23 were arrested as suspects in the fatal shooting of Samuel Guzman on Oct. 4, 2008.
Gonzalez has a trial date scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 21 in Department 4 of the Visalia Courthouse
Covarrubias pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm. He will be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 12 in Department 4 of the Visalia Courthouse.
Guzman died after being shot once in the head outside a social gathering shortly after midnight on Oct. 4, 2008.
- Louis Rodriguez, 19, is behind bars facing murder charges in the 2007 shooting of Xavier Taylor. His jury trial confirmation is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 31 in Department 11 of the Visalia Courthouse. The jury trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 6 in department 11 of the Visalia Courthouse.
Authorities found Taylor, 19, unresponsive with multiple gunshot wounds inside a grey Ford Taurus Oct. 5, 2007 in the area of Olive Avenue and G Street. A passenger was shot, and survived, but fled the scene. Afterward, the second victim contacted the police. Taylor was pronounced dead at Sierra View District Hospital.