4 transients shot to prevent them from being witnesses, police say
Long Beach police said the 2008 shooting deaths of five transients at a homeless encampment was sparked by one victim's unpaid drug debt. Two gunmen allegedly killed the man, then fatally shot the others in the encampment to prevent them from being witnesses against them, police said.
Los Angeles County prosecutors Wednesday filed murder charges with special circumstances against David Cruz Ponce, 31, and Max Eliseo Rafael, 25. They also face kidnapping charges. Both are allegedly members of the Watts street gang Nuthood Watts.
An anonymous caller had tipped authorities about a slaying near the 1500 block of West Wardlow Road. When Long Beach police arrived, they found two women and three men dead, some with multiple gunshot wounds, authorities said.
Authorities believe all five, including Malaepule, who was an unemployed single mother of six -- ages 8, 10, 13, 14, 15 and 16 at the time -- were friends and had been socializing with one another for some time.
-- Richard Winton and Ruben Vives
Photo: A woman reacts at the scene where five homeless people were found shot to death on Nov. 2, 2008.
Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times