Random Phone Call Helps Solve 1992 Murder of 14-Year-Old Girl in El Monte

Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau

November 21, 1992, at around 9:15 pm, 14-year-old Alin Garcia and her friend were walking on Mountainview Road in the city of El Monte. They were approaching the Little Five Points Liquor Store, a frequent hangout for members of the ‘El Monte Flores’ street gang. As the young men flashed gang signs to passing cars, Alin decided to stop and use a payphone. As Alin lifted the receiver and dialed, two pickup trucks rolled up to the parking lot and the occupants opened fire at the gang members, one of the young men was killed…so was Alin. Alin was hit by a stray bullet in the forehead. The trucks sped away.

On the other end of the phone was Alin’s sister, Ana, who had been staying the night at their Aunt’s home. Ana was 15 years old at the time and told me she remembers answering the phone but can’t remember if her sister said anything or if she heard anything. But she remembers vividly the events that unfolded next. She said the phone went dead so she hung up not thinking much about it and went to bed. The next morning, Ana’s mother called and asked Ana to come to her grandmother’s house to accompany her to the hospital because she had a broken ankle. Ana said that was odd because her mother had other relatives who were closer and could easily help but she went anyway.

Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau

When Ana arrived at her grandmother’s home she said she knew something was wrong. She said after she walked into the living room and sat down her Uncle coldly told her that her sister was dead. Ana’s mother was standing behind her Uncle and Ana said she remembered seeing her mother nodding her head as her Uncle told her the news. Ana’s mother went to a bedroom and Ana followed her. When the two were alone Ana said she asked her mother why she was lying to her. Her mother said she wasn’t lying and that Alin was killed during a drive-by shooting the night before.

Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau

No suspects were ever found, and the case went cold…

The Random Call

May 2019, LA County Sheriff’s Detective Shaun McCarthy said he got a random phone call from a woman who told him her husband was in jail in another state and had information about a murder from 1992. McCarthy works in the department’s cold case unit, a collection of retired detectives who work part time to close the thousands of unsolved cases in LA County.

McCarthy told me he was eventually able to speak with the woman’s husband on the phone and the man was able to provide enough intimate details of the case that McCarthy and another detective traveled out of state to visit the man in jail.

McCarthy said the man provided details about the shooting in El Monte and the subsequent attempted burglary of a gun shop in Rialto, something homicide detectives didn’t know about. McCarthy said the man gave names and graphic details about the gun used in the shooting. The attempted burglary would become key because it was intercepted by Rialto police which resulted in an officer involved shooting.

By law, weapons from an officer involved shooting are kept indefinitely by the outside agency investigating the shooting. In this case, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department investigated the shooting and kept the weapon recovered at the scene of the gun shop in Rialto.

When McCarthy and his colleague returned to LA they went to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and requested the weapon. They took the gun back to their lab and it was a match, right down to a ballistic match of the round removed from Alin’s forehead.

Now, with physical evidence and intel from the man in jail, McCarthy and his partner began to assemble a case. In December of 2019, detectives were able to arrest David Ibarra and Raymond Gamez for double murder. In January of 2020, Gregory Montano surrendered and was charged with the same counts. The man from out of state who started this whole chain of events was given some minor assistance with his case and was never associated with this crime.

McCarthy and his team gave the case to the District Attorney’s office. McCarthy said they knew they had a solid case but also knew this was not a slam dunk. In fact, the case has a lot of legal hurdles to cross.

The System

The men who were charged with the crimes were teenagers when they committed them. Montano and Gamez were 15, Ibarra was 17. And, by law, all 3 (now in their 40’s) would now have to go through the juvenile court system. In 1992, a 15-year-old who committed murder would never be tried as an adult and the most they would ever get is 2 years in ‘kid jail’. But a 17-year-old could be transferred to adult court to face double murder charges. McCarthy explains that because of the new District Attorney’s directive on juvenile cases NOT being transferred to adult court, the then 17-year-old, David Ibarra, would now be treated like the other 2.

In March of 2021, the trial against the 3 men began in juvenile court. The trial lasted 5 weeks. In this court there’s no jury, just a judge. Montano was acquitted and released. Ibarra and Gamez were found guilty of 2 counts of murder, 3 counts of attempted murder, 1 count of conspiracy to commit murder and possession of a firearm. Both remain in county jail.

The juvenile court now has to decide the disposition of the 2 men. According to McCarthy, if the judge decides to accept the men into the juvenile sentencing system, the most they would get would be 2 years, minus time served. If the judge decides not to accept the men into the juvenile sentencing system, they would be released.

McCarthy says the man who actually pulled the trigger lives in Mexico and was an illegal immigrant at the time of the murders. An extradition request is underway. Of the remaining 7 gang members who were involved that night, 2 are dead and 1 is in prison.

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