Investigators in Fresno County say they’ve uncovered a string of conspiracies and murders linked to a single death in Malaga earlier this year. Evidence trail led them to a family that was recently in the news for collecting a large settlement from the city of Fresno for the death of a teenager at the hands of police.
“Clearly, this family has been seasoned in this type of behavior,” said Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.
According to KFSN-TV, evidence shows that detectives prevented another murder while investigating a case involving a familiar family; however, the situation may be more complicated than initially thought.
During her lawsuit against Fresno, Christina Lopez kept a low profile to avoid drawing attention to herself and Isiah Murrietta-Golding, her son. He was killed by police while fleeing from officers trying to detain or arrest him. In April, the case was settled for $4.9 million before it went to trial.
Lopez, according to Smittcamp, has spent at least some of her money on criminal activity.
“She has continued now to take the money from her settlement that she received from the city of Fresno to buy a home where she lives in addition to spending thousands of dollars on guns that she has in turn given to her 14-year-old son,” she said.
Lopez is now charged with 22 counts of gun trafficking. Prosecutors claim she purchased firearms and gave them to her son to distribute to gang members. However, Lopez’s attorney says that she can account for all of the money she received from the settlement.
He stated that she moved out of the Calwa area to keep her remaining children out of trouble and that providing guns to gangs would be out of character for her.
“We have to see what they have and what type of concrete, physical evidence that we can look at so that would connect her,” said defense attorney Ralph Torres.
The Fresno County sheriff’s office apprehended Lopez following the July murders of Javier Fernandez in Malaga and Adrian Gamboa in Fresno. Court documents obtained by KFSN detail how wiretaps uncovered another murder plot involving Jessie Aguilar, a gang shot-caller already serving time for a 2014 murder.
According to the documents, Aguilar instructed Juan Alfredo Venegas on who to kill in connection with Gamboa’s murder, and Venegas enlisted the assistance of Lopez’s 14-year-old son.
“Especially troublesome, Aguilar was directing teenagers belonging to the gang to commit murders,” said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.
They made arrangements to meet the victim at Calwa Park, but Fresno County sheriff’s detectives intervened and arrested Venegas with a gun converted to a machine gun. According to legal analyst Tony Capozzi, it will be difficult for a defense attorney to refute the wiretap evidence.
“That’s very substantial, strong evidence as to what they were talking about obviously,” Capozzi said. “But then, did they follow up and do something? Yes they did. One of them was at the park and found by the police, arrested, and what he said on the phone was found in his car.”
Richard Aguilar, who is not related to Jessie, was apprehended by detectives for the murder of Javier Fernandez. No one has been arrested in connection with Gamboa’s murder.
Christina Lopez remains in jail for the time being and will appear in court for the first time on Tuesday.
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