Santa Maria homicide investigators found a “horrific” crime scene last week when they were called to the home where 28-year-old Anthony Ibarra is believed to have been tortured and killed, according to Police Chief Ralph Martin.
The slaying, which is believed to have taken place on Sunday, March 17, was carried out by “very violent street-gang members,” Martin said during a press conference Monday, shortly before arraignment hearings were to be held for the eight suspects in the case.
Ibarra appeared to have been tortured over a two- to three-hour period, Martin said, and an autopsy showed he died of a stab wound.
Martin did not describe the nature of the torture.
Authorities have not offered a possible motive for the killing, but have said it was carried out for the benefit of the Sureno criminal street gang.
Sources have told Noozhawk that investigators are looking at several possible motives relating to gangs, drugs and a lover’s triangle.
Martin was joined at Monday’s press conference by Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley, D.A. Chief Investigator Dave Saunders, and representatives of six local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies.
The investigation into Ibarra’s death began the evening of March 18, when officers were called to the 1100 block of Donovan Road near Blosser Road after a citizen reported a “possible violent crime” had taken place at a residence there, according to Santa Maria police.
No body was found at that time, and the investigation continued into the following morning, when sheriff’s personnel located a vehicle believed to be involved — a U-Haul truck — on Los Padres Street in Orcutt.
Ibarra’s body was discovered inside.
Six people, all alleged gang members, have been charged with first-degree murder and numerous special allegations, including kidnapping, lying in wait, torture and gang enhancements.
The six — Anthony Jesus Solis, 28, David Murillo Maldonado Jr., 55, Manuel Santos Santos, 33, Ramon David Maldonado, 37, Reyes Gonzales Jr., 42, and Robert Stan Sosa, 19 — could face the death penalty or life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted.
Dudley said Monday she has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty in the case.
Two other people — Carmen Danielle Cardenas, 28, and Pedro Torres Jr., 54 — are charged with being assessories after the fact for allegedly hiding at least one of the murder suspects.
Martin said neighbors were helpful in tracking down initial leads in the case, while Dudley called the investigation “extraordinary,” and credited “boots on the ground” for the eight arrests so far.
Santa Maria Police Sgt. Daniel Cohen told reporters detectives could not confirm that Ibarra was a member of a street gang. Detectives did say, however, that Ibarra was known to the suspects.
The eight suspects are due back in court April 10 for arraignment.