LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A man convicted of a shooting on Mother's Day in 2018 in South Los Angeles that left two 15-year-old boys dead and two other teens wounded was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jurors found Cristian Ivan Macias, 24, and co-defendants Edwin Federico Loza, 24, and Nancy De La Rocha, 31, guilty July 5 of two counts each of first-degree murder for the May 13, 2018, shootings of La'Marrion Upchurch of Long Beach and Monyae Jackson of Los Angeles in the 300 block of West Manchester Avenue near the 110 Freeway.
The panel also found true the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, along with an allegation that Macias personally and intentionally discharged a firearm.
Jurors also convicted the defendants of one count each of conspiracy to commit murder and two counts each of attempted murder for the shootings of two other 15-year-old boys who were injured.
"Well, I think this was a tragic situation and senseless killing," Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench said just before imposing the sentence on Macias.
Upchurch's mother, Rasheen Williams, wiped away tears as she told the judge that it's been a "long journey" with sleepless nights since her son was killed.
Jackson's brother, Kevonte Watkins, called what had happened a tragedy and told Macias that he hoped he would get what he deserves for his "heinous actions."
Loza and De La Rocha are also facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. They are due back in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Oct. 16, when a date is scheduled to be set for their sentencing.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Brian Chang called the slayings the "result of a calculated plan to kill by the defendants," alleging that Macias and Loza were gang members and that De La Rocha served as the driver and that a Los Angeles police officer believed she was a gang associate.
The prosecutor told jurors that De La Rocha was initially confronted by a man who pointed a gun at her at a taco stand to get some food. Chang said Loza left to arm himself with a weapon, and that Macias had a separate confrontation with the four teenage boys in which a gun that wound up being a pellet gun was pointed at him by Jackson before Macias ran away and subsequently got into De La Rocha's black SUV.
Of the defendants, Chang said, "It's a planned execution ... They hunted for them."
"They utilized a car to get the jump on them ... to surprise the victims," the prosecutor said, telling jurors that the four teenagers were shot while running away.
Attorneys for all three defendants contended that there was insufficient evidence to prove the case against their clients.
Macias' attorney, Michael Waldinger, said the only reasonable explanation was that Macias was "seeking refuge" and "seeking safety" after the confrontation with the teenagers, and maintained that his client was not the one who opened fire on the youths. He said his client's subsequent statement involving the shooting to someone placed in a jail cell with him did not match up to the evidence.
De La Rocha's attorney, Angela Berry, said her client is a mother of three and a nursing student who "sees the good in people" and "gives them rides" and said the prosecution had failed to prove that the gunman emerged from De La Rocha's vehicle, telling jurors that there were numerous black SUVs in the area around the time of the shooting.
"There's so much doubt here," she said, noting that she also disputed the characterization of De La Rocha as a gang associate.
Loza's attorney, Robert Schwartz, told jurors that his client was "in the wrong place at the wrong time." He noted that Loza subsequently told someone placed in his jail cell that "I didn't expect it."
In his rebuttal argument, the prosecutor countered that Loza was referring to seeing a gun pointed at De La Rocha, not about the shooting of the teens minutes later.
Upchurch died from a gunshot wound to the back the day of the shooting, and Jackson died two days later as a result of a gunshot wound through the abdomen, according to records from the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner.
Macias was arrested by Los Angeles police just over a month after the shooting, while De La Rocha was taken into custody in September 2018 and Loza was arrested in November 2018.