A Santa Maria man killed March 17 was tortured and murdered by members of a criminal street gang over illicit drugs, the Santa Maria Police Department said Monday.
Police Chief Ralph Martin gathered with investigators from five different agencies who have worked on the case, so far. They include his police department, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, county Probation Department, District Attorney’s Office, state parole and probation, and FBI.
Martin said without the contribution of each, they wouldn’t have been able to arrest eight people they feel are responsible for the murder of 28-year-old Anthony Ibarra.
Few new details were released Monday, during a press conference at the Santa Maria Police Department, but Martin said they are certain Ibarra was tortured over a two- to three-hour period and eventually died of a stab wound. The crime took place at a house in the 1100 block of West Donovan Road.
Ibarra’s body was found in the back of an abandoned U-Haul moving truck in Orcutt that was located by a sheriff’s deputy after police issued an alert to other agencies to be on the lookout for such a vehicle.
Martin said it was obvious to investigators that Ibarra was the victim of a violent attack by several gang members.
“I think we’ve got some very violent street gang members who were involved in a drug war. I think that it came to a head at this location at a particular time,” Martin said. “Mr. Ibarra was obviously the focus of this assault, and hopefully as this progresses through the court system we’ll have more information related to the specificity of why he was actually murdered at that time.”
District Attorney Joyce Dudley added her congratulations to the investigators for their quick work on rounding up the suspects.
“It was extraordinary that in just 96 hours this case can be resolved the way it is and we can now have eight defendants charged with this horrible crime,” she said.
Not long after the 1:30 p.m. press conference, the suspects — Reyes Gonzales Jr., Ramon David Maldonado, Carmen Danielle Cardenas, Pedro Torres Jr., Manuel Santos Santos, David Murillo Maldonado Jr., Robert Sosa and Anthony Jesus Solis — appeared at the Santa Maria courthouse for their arraignment. Santos was previously identified by authorities as Santos Manuel Sauceda.
Each was represented by a different defense attorney, and all are from Santa Maria, except Gonzales, who lives in Guadalupe.
Six of the eight — Solis, David Maldonado, Ramon Maldonado, Santos, Gonzales and Sosa — were charged with murder and a long list of special allegations.
Cardenas and Torres Jr. were charged with being accessories after the fact — knowing of the crime — with special allegations.
Ramon Maldonado was also charged with two counts of dissuading a witness with special allegations.
It was the second trip to court for Ramon Maldonado, Cardenas, Torres and Gonzales, who appeared on Friday. They returned to Judge John McGregor’s courtroom Monday, accompanied by David Maldonado, Santos, Solis and Sosa.
All but Cardenas and Torres were sequestered with their attorneys in a room adjoining the courtroom during the hearing. They were visible through two windows adjoining the jury box.
The arraignment was continued to April 10.
Chief Martin said crime is increasing because of Assembly Bill 109, the state’s move to reduce its prison population by shipping prisoners to county jails.
“With the release with some of the AB 109 prisoners we’re seeing in California, I would be remiss to say we're not seeing an increase in crime — specifically residential burglaries, robberies and assaults,” he said, attributing the Ibarra homicide to a combination of gang activity, drug activity and territorial activity. “I think it was a one-time event. Keep in mind this is only the second homicide the city has had since Jan. 1. Certainly it is two too many, but I do not believe that it’s an indication that there is a violent crime spree going on in the city.”