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Teen charged with murder for stray bullet that killed Escondido woman

SAN DIEGO – Prosecutors charged a 16-year-old alleged gang member with murder Monday for a shooting that killed an Escondido woman as she returned home from church.

Prosecutors said the juvenile suspect, who was identified only by his first name, Jose, was an accomplice to 24-year-old Dionicio Torrez Jr. in the shooting death of 55-year-old Catherine Kennedy on March 9. Investigators allege that Torrez was shooting at rival gang members when a stray bullet struck Kennedy in the head as she drove by.

Because of his age, Jose faced Judge Aaron Katz in juvenile court.

"He was given notice of the charges against him.  He was allowed to plead not guilty," Deputy District Attorney Laurie Hauf said. "We do believe he is an accomplice to this murder."

Jose is not accused of firing the bullet that killed Kennedy, but he is being charged as though he did.

"He’s being charged with murder. I'm not able to discuss any further charging at this time," Hauf said.

Given the nature of juvenile court, much of the information is confidential for the protection of the minor. But it was revealed in court Monday that Jose has been in juvenile court before. He is also charged with violating probation.

Prosecutors said Jose, who is a U.S. citizen, lives in Escondido with his mother. His father lives in Tijuana.

As the charges against Jose were read, his mother and sister cried. Judge Katz called Jose a danger to himself and the community. He ordered the teen to remain in custody.

Hauf said prosecutors could charge Jose as an adult at a later time. He is scheduled to return to court on April 4.