Pixel Tracker

Sunday, November 18 , 2018, 7:28 pm | Fair with Haze 56º


Criminal Grand Jury Indicts 9 in Gang Torture-Slaying

Prosecutors say they won't seek death penalty in killing of Anthony Ibarra in Santa Maria

A criminal grand jury handed down indictments Wednesday against nine people who prosecutors say are responsible for the brutal torture and slaying of a Santa Maria gang member earlier this year.

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced the indictments Thursday, along with her decision not to seek the death penalty against any of those accused in the torture and killing of Anthony Ibarra.

Indicted for murder and conspiracy to commit murder were Ramon Maldonado, Reyes Gonzales Jr., Santos Sauceda, David Maldonado, Robert Sosa, Anthony Solis, Verenisa Aviles, Ramon Maldonado Jr. and Jason Castillo, Dudley said.

Seven of the defendants — Ramon and David Maldonado, Gonzales, Sauceda, Sosa, Solis and Castillo — also were indicted on special allegations of lying in wait, torture, kidnapping, and for committing the crimes in furtherance of a criminal street gang.

Ramon Maldonado faces an additional count for witness intimidation with a gang enhancement.

Two other suspects — Carmen Cardenas and Pedro Torres — were indicted for being accessories after the fact to murder with the gang enhancement.

Ramon Maldonado Jr. is a new suspect in the case, and is a 14-year-old who is being tried as an adult, Dudley said.

He is the son and grandson of two other suspects, and turned himself in to Santa Maria police on Wednesday.

Ramon Maldonado Jr., 14, is being tried as an adult in the case.
Ramon Maldonado Jr., 14, is being tried as an adult in the case.

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 in Santa Maria 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 found inside.

The slaying, which is believed to have taken place on Sunday, March 17, was carried out by “very violent street-gang members,” according to Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin.

Ibarra, 28, 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, although sources have told Noozhawk that Ibarra was attacked with a screwdriver.

Homicide victim Anthony Ibarra
Homicide victim Anthony Ibarra

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 also have told Noozhawk that investigators are looking at several possible motives relating to gangs, drugs and a lover’s triangle.

Dudley said she chose to go to the grand jury for indictments because a preliminary hearing — held to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial — would have been slow and unwieldy with the large number of defendants in the case.

“With that many attorneys, there could be multiple requests for continuances, and with a case like this, justice delayed would feel like justice denied to this community,” she said.

The 19-member criminal grand jury met in secret earlier this week, hearing the allegations from prosecutors and testimony from witnesses. The defendants and their attorneys did not attend.

If convicted of the charges against them, Ramon and David Maldonado, Gonzales, Sauceda, Sosa, Solis and Castillo face possible sentences of life without the possibility of parole, Dudley said.

Ramon Maldonado and Aviles face possible sentences of 25 years to life if convicted. Cardenas faces a maximum sentence of seven years and Torres faces a maximum term of 10 years.

Dudley said she considered “the underlying facts and factors” of the case in deciding not to seek the death penalty.

“Those factors included the prior criminal history of the defendants, their ages, and their relationship to Anthony Ibarra,” Dudley said.

She declined to elaborate.

Dudley did note that life without parole “is a significant punishment,” adding that the death penalty “is rarely executed, causing the victim’s families to be denied any sense of closure; and, instead be subjected to decades of appeals and mounting frustration.”

The defendants were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Superior Court in Santa Maria.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >