Trial to begin in 1996 gangland slaying
More than 16 years after the fatal gang-related stabbing of a teenager outside his girlfriend’s Fullerton home, prosecutors say they will try one of the rival gang members long suspected of taking part in the attack.
Joe Luis Garay Jr., 36, of La Habra, who allegedly belonged to the Devious Hoodlums street gang at the time of the crime, faces 25 years to life in prison if he is convicted of felony murder at his trial in Santa Ana, where opening statements are scheduled to begin Tuesday.
Prosecutors say Garay and fellow gang member Kevin Jerome Carlson were cruising the streets looking for rival gangsters to attack in March 1996 when they found Troy Gorena, 16, outside his girlfriend’s Fullerton home. Prosecutors say the two punched and stabbed Gorena, then fled the scene.
They were arrested five months later, but charges were dismissed when a witness –- a female gang member -- recanted under pressure from the gang, prosecutors said. Investigators reopened the case in 2008, persuaded the witness to give her account and dug up other evidence, said prosecutor Larry Yellin.
“Because of the new evidence, her testimony doesn’t stand on an island by itself,” Yellin said.
One of the expected witnesses is Carlson, now 38, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in the case and could face four years in prison when he is sentenced in September.
-- Christopher Goffard
Photo: Troy Gorena's mother, Bobbi Gorena, holds a poster with information about her son's murder in 1996. Credit: Los Angeles Times