Man guilty of murder in gang shooting that killed woman leaving church

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Dionicio Crespin Torrez Jr., was found guilty of first-degree murder Friday for his role in a North County gang shooting that killed an uninvolved woman who was driving home from church.

Torrez was also convicted of attempting to murder on a series of related gang and weapon charges. He faces life in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 20.

In the first day of Torrez’s trial, the prosecution described the motivation for the shooting on the night of March 7, 2017: “He tried to shoot and kill rival gang members because they were on his turf.”

But instead, according to the prosecution, Dionicio Torrez Junior shot Catherine Kennedy, a 55-year old woman who was simply driving home from church and got caught in the crossfire. Deputy DA Laura Hauf methodically laid out her case and the evidence she will present against 25-year old Torrez, a known member of Escondido’s Diablo’s gang.

“This is the defendant’s world,” said Hauf. “Dionicio Torrez, AKA ‘Kurupt’ with a K. You’ll hear about why it matters to the Diablo’s gang and he’s not just a gang member that lives in Pepperwood, he is the leader.”

Torrez, she said, fired off 12 rounds at a rival gang called Westside as they were making their way to a getaway car after tagging the Pepperwood Apartment Complex – Torrez’s own home.

“It’s not only sign of disrespect, it’s a challenge that has to be dealt with. It has to be retaliated against. Otherwise your gang is weak and your territory is in jeopardy,” she said.

When Torrez heard the rivals were on his turf that night, he and a 16-year-old junior member of the gang, who is cooperating with the prosecution in exchange for a lesser sentence, found the Westside gang as they were making their getaway.

“That’s when the defendant starts unloading, he pulls out a gun and there were multiple shots,” she said.

The judge has forbid us from recording any witnesses or testimony, many of them taking the stand reluctantly, fearing retaliation or worse.

“You will learn in Escondido, young men are armed. They carry guns. You will hear about a world where turf and territory are significant and they matter. Because there is a civil war going on between men simply because they live on opposite sides of town.”