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Police announce arrests in 2008 Calif. deaths

Police say arrests made in 2008 shooting deaths of 5 people in Southern Calif. By The Associated Press

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) ' Two alleged gang members were charged Wednesday with the shootings deaths of five people in a homeless encampment beneath a Los Angeles-area freeway more than three years ago, police said.

Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell announced the arrests Wednesday of David Ponce, 31, and Max Rafael, 25 ' alleged members of the Nuthood Watts criminal street gang. Both men are charged with five special circumstance murders, one count each of kidnapping to commit another crime and conspiracy to commit a crime, along with gun and gang allegations, McDonnell said.

The mass killing in November 2008 baffled investigators after the bodies of three men and two women were found on a Sunday morning in a seedy neighborhood of warehouses and apartment buildings. A phone tip led them to the bodies, which had been there at least a day.

At the time, officers said there were no eyewitnesses and they hadn't established a motive for the shooting deaths. Some victims were shot multiple times.

News of the arrests comes a day after a suspected serial killer was charged in the stabbing deaths of four homeless men in nearby Orange County over the past month.

The Long Beach killings happened in an area known as a homeless encampment and drug hangout in the shadow of two intersecting freeways. The investigation may have been hampered as the season's first significant rain may have washed away evidence of the crimes.

The victims were identified as Hamid Shraifat, 41; Frederick Neumeier, 53; Katherine Verdun, 24; Lorenzo Perez Villicana, 44; and Vanessa Malaepule, 34.

Police said they received very few phone calls in the days following the killings. It was unclear if the anonymous tipster ever came forward.

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Related Keywords:Homeless Camp Shooting,Violent crime,Crime,Arrests,General news,Human welfare,Social issues,Social affairs,Law and order


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