2 charged with murder after teen girls found slain at Montecito Heights Park
(KTLA) -- Two teens were charged with murder on Thursday in connection with the deaths of two young women, whose bodies were discovered in a Montecito Heights park last October, according to the Los Angeles County District's Attorney Office.
The charges were filed one day after a Los Angeles Police Department source said an arrest had been made in the case, confirming information released by one of the suspect's mothers.
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The teens were identified as 17-year-old Dallas Stone Pineda, also known as "Trippy," and 18-year-old Jose Antonio Echeverria, aka "Klepto," according to the legal complaint.
Echeverria was also charged with attempted murder and shooting at an occupied vehicle. The attempted murder victim -- who was targeted Jan. 29, according to the complaint -- was identified only as John Doe.
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In another count, Echeverria was charged with bringing contraband into the LAPD's Metropolitan Detention Center on Jan. 30. He allegedly brought in a controlled substance and paraphernalia for injecting it.
Echeverria was arrested early Nov. 7 by LAPD's Rampart Division and released about 9:30 p.m. the following day, inmate records show. He was rearrested late Friday. Jan 29 by LAPD's Hollenbeck Division and has been in custody since then. He was being held on $1.34 million bail at North County Correctional Facility in Castaic, the records show.
In addition to the murder charges, Pineda also faced the special circumstances that he was an active gang member, and carried out the killing to further the gang's activities, according to the complaint.
LAPD has scheduled a news conference regarding the case for 4:15 p.m.
The arrest and charges come more than three months after the bodies of 17-year-old Briana Nicole Gallegos and 19-year-old Gabriela Calzada were found near a hiking trail in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park.
The victims, both fully clothed when discovered on Oct. 28, each sustained some type of blunt-force trauma. A cause of death has not been released by the L.A. County coroner's office.
Gallegos and Calzada were killed on Oct. 27. Both had been shot, which caused "great bodily injury and death," the complaint stated.
Several people were detained for questioning when police served search warrants in connection with the killings in mid-November, but no one was arrested at the time.
The mother of the 17-year-old boy told KTLA in an interview on Wednesday that her son had been questioned a week after the victims' bodies were found. She said her son was initially ruled out as a suspect after he gave them a DNA sample.
But on Tuesday, he was arrested when he got off the school bus, according to the mother.
"All I've got to say is, he's innocent," she said.
The woman added her son was friends with both two victims, and had dated Briana on and off for about two years. He was devastated upon learning they had been found dead in the park last year, she recalled.
"He sat here with tears, my son, where I was sitting her with him, comforting him. And he was like, 'Why mom? Her life hasn't even started.'"
An LAPD source who confirmed the arrest could not provide the teen's name. Typically, authorities do not release a juvenile suspect's name unless that person is charged as an adult.
At a town hall meeting in Montecito Heights Wednesday evening, LAPD officials confirmed the arrest, telling the crowd that additional suspects in the case were still outstanding. No further information was released at the time.
After his arrest, the 17-year-old was transferred to a juvenile detention facility in Sylmar, according to his mother, who spoke with him over the phone after he was taken into custody. She has not seen him since.
"Don't you think he needs his mom beside him?" she said.
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