SAN DIEGO — Two Mexican gang leaders deserve the death penalty for committing “murder after murder” in San Diego County between 2004 and 2007, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Jorge Rojas Lopez, 34, was convicted of four murders last month, while Juan Estrada Gonzalez, also 34, was convicted of six counts of first-degree murder in a trial that began in January 2013.
In both cases, jurors found true special circumstance allegations of kidnapping, torture and multiple murders, as well as an allegation that the killings were committed to benefit the defendants’ “Los Palillos” gang.
The jury must now recommend a sentence of death or life in prison without parole.
“What punishment does each defendant deserve for the crimes the committed?” Deputy District Attorney James Fontaine asked in his closing argument of the penalty phase. “We have murder after murder after murder in this case.”
Fontaine said some victims were kidnapped and held for days with the false hope they would be released. They were eventually killed.
The bodies of two men were dissolved in acid and buried on a San Ysidro ranch, others were strangled and their bodies were left in public to rot, Fontaine said.
Estrada Gonzalez got sadistic pleasure from using a Taser on the genitals of a victim, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor urged jurors not to buy the theory that Rojas Lopez was under extreme emotional distress, because the Arellano-Felix gang killed his brother in 2002.
“None of his victims had anything to do with his brother’s murder,” Fontaine said. “He acted out of vengeance. He acted out of greed. He decided who would live and who would die.”
Fontaine said Estrada Gonzalez’s murders were “purely out of greed.” He set out to line his pockets with money and live life in the fast lane, Fontaine said.
One of his murders including the killing of a man whose body was stuffed in the trunk of a car, stuck with toothpicks behind his ear and in his buttocks.
“He is sadistic and he is cruel,” the prosecutor said.
Fontaine said Rojas Lopez can’t claim what he did — including shooting at a Chula Vista police officer — was morally justified.
The “beginning of the end” for Rojas Lopez and Estrada Gonzalez came on June 16, 2007, when they and three fellow gang members were arrested after kidnapping a wealthy businessman and holding him for ransom in a Chula Vista home for eight days, according to prosecutors.
The defendants are already serving life-without-parole prison sentences on convictions for kidnapping and other crimes. Closing arguments will resume Monday.