By Anna Hopkins
Published June 23, 2019
An MS-13 gang member has been sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in 2001.
In March, a jury convicted 41-year-old Jorge Palacios of first-degree murder and kidnapping to commit rape in the case of Jacqueline Piazza of Whittier, Calif. On Friday, Palacios was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 25 years, KTLA reports.
The conviction comes almost exactly 18 years to the day after the naked body of 13-year-old Piazza was discovered in a remote area of Elysian Park, located just behind Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. She had been raped and shot twice in the head.
Jurors also found Palacios guilty of "special circumstance" allegations, finding that the crime was committed "in the commission of rape, lewd acts on a child and kidnapping," according to a news release from the Los Angeles District Attorney.
Piazza's murder was unsolved for nearly two decades until the city's robbery and homicide division joined forces with the gang and narcotics division and uncovered new evidence in 2012 that pointed to Palacios and three other men.
Another jury is considering the same charges against Rogelio Contreras, 42, Melvin Sandoval, 40, and Santos Grimaldi, 36. Grimaldi is also facing an additional charge related to allegations that he used a gun during the crime. The men are set to appear in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on August 23.
Authorities believed that the four men abducted the teen the night before her body was found, drove her to a secluded area of the park before sexually assaulting and murdering her.
A previous trial of Contreras, Sandoval and Grimaldi last year resulted in a hung jury.