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Police Detective’s Testimony in Ibarra Murder Trial Focuses on Gang Culture

The Santa Maria court case with six defendants enters its seventh week

Ramon Maldonado smiles as his attorney prepares to question a gang detective in court Monday. Maldonado is one of the six defendants on trial for the gang-related torture and slaying of Anthony Ibarra in 2013.
Ramon Maldonado smiles as his attorney prepares to question a gang detective in court Monday. Maldonado is one of the six defendants on trial for the gang-related torture and slaying of Anthony Ibarra in 2013. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A crime such as the alleged torture-slaying of a drug dealer would boost the reputations of gang members involved, a police detective said Monday in the seventh week of testimony for the six men charged with the death of Anthony Ibarra in 2013.

Under questioning by Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen, Detective Michael Parker from the Santa Maria Police Department identified the six men now on trial as being either gang members or associates of gang members.

The men were charged in connection with the March 17, 2013, torture-slaying of the 28-year-old in a house on West Donovan Road in Santa Maria. Ibarra’s body was found a few days later in a U-Haul rental truck parked on an Orcutt street. 

“It enhances that gang’s reputation for violence … ,” said Parker, who was testifying as a gang expert.

The prosecution’s presentation of evidence in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court trial reportedly is winding down, with the defense then expected to begin calling their witnesses in the trial. Among those expected to be called on behalf of the defense is their own gang expert.

In addition to enhancing the reputation of the gang and its individual members, Parker said a violent crime also increases a community’s fear about gangs and their reputation for violence.

“Nobody’s afraid of the Girl Scouts because the Girl Scouts don’t have a reputation for violence,” Parker said. 

Earlier, the police detective pointed out the significance of the various gang-identifying tattoos Maldonado sports as large photos were displayed for the jury’s view.

Parker also called Maldonado a top leader in the gang.

“I would identify him as a shot-caller based on his leadership position in the gang,” Parker said.

Ibarra trial
Ramon Maldonado, Anthony Solis and David Maldonado (Ramon's father) are three of the six defendants. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Other defendants allegedly claiming gang membership include Santos Sauceda, 35, and Reyes Gonzales, 43, Parker said, adding he used jail classification reports and other interactions with police to reach the conclusion.

In addition to explaining the meanings of the defendants’ tattoos, the police detective identified the photos showing some defendants giving gang signs.

“It’s just another way of showing their allegiance and their loyalty and their mindset,” Parker said.

Parker described the other defendants, Ramon Maldonado’s dad, David Maldonado, 57, Anthony Solis, 30, and Jason Castillo, 31, as gang associates. 

Santa Barbara County has 2,000 members of gangs affiliated with the Sureños, Parker said, adding the number of associates isn’t available since they are not as well tracked.

Under cross-examination from defense attorney Michael Scott, who represents Ramon Maldonado, the detective said it’s not illegal to belong to be a gang.

Scott asked if Parker knew of any document that spelled out gang rules.

“There’s no gang constitution in written format that I’m aware of,” Parker said. 

The attorney also questioned Parker about gang members’s reactions to being disrespected.

“In the gang world it’s expected you have some sort of violent response in order to maintain your reputation,” Parker said.

Later, defense attorney Addison Steele, who represents Solis, asked if his client had ever been linked to gangs before the current case.

Parker noted the large number of gang members compared to a handful of detectives in gang suppression unit.

“It is not uncommon for people to fly under the radar at all,” Parker said. 

Steele also asked if the police officer knew whether Solis was familiar with any of the gang members in pictures Parker used in his gang presentation. Parker said he did not know if Solis knew anyone in the pictures.

Defense attorneys’ cross examination of Parker is scheduled to continue Tuesday morning in Santa Maria Juvenile Court, where the trial is being held due to the large number of participants.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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