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Suspects arrested in cold-case Montebello gang murders

June 20, 2012 |  1:00 pm

Jimmy Valenzuela and Corina Castellano

A man and a woman have been arrested in connection with separate gang-related killings dating back to 2007, Montebello police announced Wednesday.

Montebello Police Chief Kevin McClure is focusing department efforts on unsolved gang homicides and the public can expect more arrests in coming months growing out of ongoing investigations, said Lt. Luis Lopez.

"We're putting resources into these unsolved homicides, specifically gang-related homicides in order to bring justice to the community and improve the quality of life for the residents of Montebello," Lopez said.

Police arrested Jimmy Valenzuela, 29, of Montebello on Thursday on suspicion of committing two gang-related slayings.

In one of the crimes, Joe Alvarado, 22, was shot multiple times while sitting in his car on the afternoon of Dec. 22, 2007, in the 800 block of Mines Avenue in Montebello. His friends took Alvarado to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Neighbors who knew Alvarado said he was happy, and funny. "He had a heart that was just too big to crush," Vanessa Dominguez, a neighbor, told The Times in 2007. She called him by the nickname "JoJo." Neighbors said Alvarado worked as a repossession tow truck driver for his uncle. His plans were to save money, move in with his girlfriend and start a family, Dominguez said.

Detectives said they also have evidence linking Valenzuela to the killing of Jimmy Jimenez, 29, who was fatally shot Saturday, July 24, 2010, in the 300 block of West Lohart Avenue in Montebello.

Valenzuela got out of a white SUV and walked up to Jimenez, asked the victim where he was from and his gang affiliation, police said. When the victim said he wasn't part of a gang, Valenzuela allegedly ordered him to lift his shirt and then opened fire, hitting him multiple times in the upper body. Authorities declared Jimenez dead at the scene.

Montebello detectives said a second murder arrest made Thursday will bolster their case in a separate killing in which one of the suspected shooters is currently awaiting trial.

Edward Dewey is suspected of walking up to Jose Casillas, 35, of Paramount, who was visiting friends and attending a celebration the night of July 4th, 2008, in the 1300 block of South Greenwood Avenue in Montebello.

Police said Dewey, 25, asked Casillas about his gang affilation and then fatally shot him in the head and back. Dewey, who was arrested days after the murder, is awaiting trial in the case.

The defendant's girlfriend, identified as Corina Castellanos, 29, has now been arrested on suspicion of murder for escalating what, until then, was a low-key encounter in what investigators are calling an important development in the case.


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-- Andrew Blankstein (Twitter.com/anblanx)

Photo: Jimmy Valenzuela and Corina Castellano. Credit: Montebello Police Department