LOS ANGELES – Two teenage gang members have been charged with murdering a 19-year-old woman and her 17-year-old friend last fall in a Los Angeles park and leaving their bodies just off a popular hiking trail where a woman walking her dog found them.
Jose Antonio Echeverria, 18, known as Klepto, and Dallas Stone Pineda, 17, known as Trippy, were held on Thursday without bond on charges of murder. Echeverria could face the death penalty. Pineda, as a minor, could get a maximum of life in prison.
Police Chief Charlie Beck said Echeverria and Pineda knew the victims, Gabriela Calzada, 19, and Briana Gallegos, 17. Their bodies were found Oct. 28 near a path in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park in Montecito Heights, about five miles from downtown Los Angeles.
Police believe they were killed a day earlier, and Beck described the scene as horrific. He declined to say whether the victims belonged to gangs or go into detail about why police believe they were targeted.
"This was motivated by hatred between gangs, and unfortunately these two very young, very innocent victims fell prey to that," he said. "These were young, vibrant women who certainly did not deserve to die."
Calzada and Gallegos were fully clothed and showed no signs of sexual assault. Their head wounds were significant enough that they were barely recognizable, police have said.
The deaths shocked people in the neighborhood surrounding the popular park, which has impressive views of downtown Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Police added officers on foot inside the park and in patrol cars in the area to assuage public fear.
"This type of crime obviously shakes a community down to its core," Capt. Martin Baeza said. "We've had a community on edge for about four months."
He said police were holding a town hall meeting in the neighborhood on Thursday night, partly to assure residents that the crime was not random and that police are continuing to patrol the area.
Their suspects are to be arraigned March 8. It's unclear if the pair have attorneys.
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