DOWNTOWN L.A. — The fate of two imprisoned gang members charged with murdering two brothers at a Santa Monica clothing store 10 years ago is now in the hands of a jury.
Jurors began deliberating Wednesday afternoon in the murder trial of David Robles and Jessie Garcia, who face two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder, said Deputy District Attorney Joseph Markus, the prosecuting attorney.
The two cousins are believed responsible for the deaths of Michael Juarez, 27, and Anthony Juarez, 19, on Oct. 27, 1998.
The Juarez brothers were visiting their cousin, Frank Juarez Jr., who owned Westside Clothing on Lincoln Boulevard, when masked gunmen stormed into the store in broad daylight and fired numerous rounds from an assault rifle and pair of handguns.
The murders were believed to be in retaliation for a homicide which occurred days earlier. Apparently, a gang member who was attending a drug class at the CLARE Foundation on Lincoln Boulevard was shot while waiting for the bus, sources said, prompting the Culver City Boyz to retaliate against Santa Monica gang members.
The Juarez brothers weren’t from Santa Monica, nor affiliated with any gangs. They were interested in opening a store similar to Westside Clothing where they lived, in Cayucos, a small town in San Luis Obispo County. The brothers had come into Santa Monica the night before to check out their cousin’s operation.
Wearing masks, the gunmen entered the store — which was located between Pacific and Strand streets on Lincoln Boulevard — shortly before noon, opened fire and ran out. Michael Juarez and Frank Juarez Jr. ran toward the back door to escape the gunfire, police said. Anthony Juarez didn’t make it to the back of the store, and was gunned down.
Frank Juarez Jr. was shot multiple times, as was Matthew Vaughan, a customer in the store. Both survived.
The assailants ran out of the store and got into a car awaiting them on Lincoln Boulevard, driven by an unknown suspect. The car was discovered near LAX later that day, wiped clean.
Evidence recovered at the crime scene was processed with current DNA technology. The DNA evidence was sent to the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Forensics Services DNA Laboratory and entered into their databank of known offenders. The samples submitted were matched with Robles and Garcia.
At the time that charges were filed, Robles, also known as “Puppet,” was serving an eight-year sentence in Corcoran State Prison. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in February 2001. Garcia, also known as “Psycho,” was convicted of carjacking and assault with a deadly weapon with a firearm causing great bodily injury in May 1999. According to the Department of Corrections, he is currently serving a 15-year sentence in Ironwood State Prison.