Two men suspected in a Santa Maria homicide appeared in court Wednesday to face charges that include torturing the victim during what Santa Barbara County prosecutors are calling a gang slaying.
Ramon Maldonado, 37, of Santa Maria and Reyes Gonzales Jr., 42, of Guadalupe face first-degree murder charges in the death of Anthony Ibarra, 28, of Santa Maria, according to the criminal complaint filed against them.
Both could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted, according to prosecutors.
Ibarra, who was killed sometime Sunday or Monday, was found dead Tuesday inside a rental truck parked in an Orcutt residential neighborhood.
“The murder was intentional and involved the infliction of torture,” according to the complaint, which also alleges that Maldonado and Gonzales are members of the Sureno gang, “and that the murder was carried out to further the activities of the criminal street gang.”
Neither police nor prosecutors have offered a possible motive for the killing.
The investigation began Monday evening, 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 Tuesday morning, when Santa Barbara County sheriff’s personnel located the vehicle believed to be involved — a U-Haul truck — on Los Padres Street in Orcutt.
Maldonado and two alleged accomplices — Carmen Cardenas, 28, and Pedro Torres, 54 — were arrested shortly after the truck was found.
Gonzales was taken into custody later in the day on a parole violation, and subsequently was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail in connection with Ibarra’s killing.
Cardenas and Torres are accused of being accessories after the fact — knowing that a murder had been committed, and harboring, concealing and aiding those responsible. They also are charged with committing crimes for the benefit of the same street gang.
In addition, Maldonado, Gonzales and Torres face allegations that they have numerous prior felony convictions, including burglary, forgery, resisting arrest, domestic violence, auto theft and drug charges relating to methamphetamine and narcotics sales.
The three defendants, who appeared in Superior Court in Santa Maria on Wednesday, did not enter pleas, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen.
They are due back in court on Friday, Bramsen said, adding that no decision has been made about what punishment to pursue against Maldonado and Gonzales.
“We have not made any decisions regarding the death penalty and probably will not for a while,” Bramsen said.