As the second week of testimony began in the murder trial of two men accused of gunning down a 26-year-old man at a Turlock barbecue, the prosecution presented evidence and testimony outlying a pattern of gang behavior that they say sparked the slaying.
Raymond “Raymo” Gutierrez, 31, and Alvaro “Tito” Saldana, 26, are facing first-degree murder charges with gang enhancements in the death of Roger Villanueva on May 25, 2008.
Villanueva was shot to death in the backyard of an Angelus Street home during a memorial barbecue to Moses Rodriguez, who was murdered in Turlock in 2006.
On Monday Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Brennan presented a gang expert witness to prove the prosecutions claim that the killing of Villanueva was done to benefit the Norteño street gang.
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Teso, a classification and a gang specialist deputy testified to the gang culture inside the Stanislaus County Jail that Gutierrez and Saldana are accused of being a part of.
Teso’s testimony included detailed descriptions of the Norteño’s organization behind bars and what is expected of the members.
When an inmate comes into the jail and they claim a certain gang affiliation or the intake deputy uses other indicators like tattoos to establish a likely gang affiliation, they are placed in segregated housing to protect the general population from recruitment and assaults.
According to Teso’s testimony, new inmates to the jail who claim Norteño affiliation are required by the gang’s hierarchy to fill out a new arrival questionnaire listing everything from their name to the charges against them. These questionnaires are written on “wellas” referring to the tiny handwriting on small bits of paper that gangs use, Teso said.
Both Gutierrez and Saldana had filled out new arrival questionnaires for the gang that were later confiscated during a cell search, Teso said.
Teso said the information in the questionnaires is passed along to the gang’s upper ranks in prisons and they perform their own version of a security check to determine if the person is in good standing or not with the gang.
Until the check is completed a member is on “freeze” Teso said, meaning they cannot hold positions within the gang and are not granted any information about the gang.
Teso also testified as to how the gangs view drop-outs or degenerates, referring to a member who has wronged the gang in some manner.
“In the mind of the gang, a degenerate is worse than a child molester,” Teso said. “They have standing orders to remove or assault a drop-out.”
According to the prosecution’s case, Villanueva aided a man who was considered to be a degenerate and because of this he earned the ire of the Norteños. The charges against Gutierrez and Saldana accuse them of caring out the killing of Villanueva to benefit their gang.
Cross-examination of Teso is slated to resume today in Dept. 5 at the Stanislaus County Superior courthouse.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.