Man accused of fatal shooting at Church’s Chicken faces life in prison


Albert Lee Blake appeared before a judge in Tennessee on Monday.

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CHULA VISTA, Calif.  -- Murder and attempted murder charges were filed Tuesday against an ex-con who allegedly shot up an Otay Mesa fast-food restaurant, killing one employee and wounding two others. following an argument with the eatery's staff.

Albert Lee Blake, a 49-year-old "self-proclaimed gang member," faces 114 years to life behind bars if convicted of the Nov. 6 shooting that killed 28-year-old Maribel Merino Ibanez of San Diego and seriously injured two of her co-workers, according to Deputy District Attorney Jalyn Wong.

Police and prosecutors allege Blake entered the Church's Chicken restaurant at 3726 Del Sol Blvd. and got into an argument with Ibanez, the cashier, over a $100 bill he was trying to use to purchase food.

After Ibanez wouldn't accept the bill, Blake left the restaurant, but returned about 10 minutes later with a gun and opened fire, Wang alleged.

Ibanez was fatally wounded, and two of co-workers -- both men -- were hospitalized. Wang said one of the men has since been released, while the other remains hospitalized in unknown condition.

The prosecutor alleged that Blake disposed of his car and cell phone shortly after fleeing the shooting scene.

He was arrested last Friday in Memphis, Tennessee, and extradited to San Diego for arraignment Tuesday afternoon in Chula Vista.

Wang said Blake has multiple prior convictions, including for burglary, domestic violence and DUI. About a month before the shooting, he completed probation on a conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to the prosecutor.

Ibanez's mother, Emma Merino, told reporters after Blake's arraignment that she had the "perfect daughter" who was "so lovely to a lot of people."

`We're suffering for something that we didn't deserve, she said. "Nobody deserves to take a life away from anyone."

The victim had recently gotten married and was described as a "loving daughter, sister and aunt" in a now-deactivated GoFundMe page created by the family.

Blake, who pleaded not guilty, was being held in lieu of $5 million bail pending a Dec. 19 status conference.

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