DOWNTOWN L.A. — Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in the trial of two suspected 18th Street gang members charged with the murders of Hector Bonilla and Jonathan Hernandez, who were shot and killed in 2005 during a birthday party at the Moose Lodge in Sunset Park.
Jose Mojaro and Eric Nuñez, a.k.a. Ector Hugo Sanchez, have been charged with two counts of murder, use of firearms during a gang crime and assault with a deadly weapon. The charges include a gang enhancement. Mojaro, also known as “Peanut,” and Nuñez, also known as “Enemy,” are believed to be gang members from Los Angeles, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
If convicted, the defendants could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A third defendant, William Vasquez, has been charged with murder in at least one other case and is awaiting trial.
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Alan Schneider said that jury selection could finish by the end of today, and the trial could start as early as Wednesday.
“It’s a very imprecise process, you just go on experience,” Schneider said. “We want to find a fair-minded jury.”
Attorney Pierpont M. Laidley, who is representing Nuñez, said two witnesses will testify that his client was not present at the murder scene. He would not comment further on the case.
The grizzly double homicide took place on Mar. 5, 2005 at the Moose Lodge on Ocean Park Boulevard. Hernandez, a 19-year-old resident of Ocean Park, and Bonilla, a 25-year-old resident of the Pico Neighborhood, were guests at a private birthday party when three suspects opened fire after a tussle with Hernandez, according to previous reports.
Bonilla ran to assist Hernandez and was shot multiple times in the torso and head. Hernandez sustained extensive injuries to the head, torso and buttocks according to the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.
All three suspects fled the scene. Police took Mojaro into custody July 5, 2005 after he was picked up on a parole violation. Vasquez was apprehended Oct. 6, 2005 in the 500 block of Westlake Street in Los Angeles. Nuñez, who remained at-large the longest, was caught after a violent police chase in January 2006 that ended in a hostage situation. Nobody was hurt.
Mojaro and Vasquez pleaded not guilty to charges during an arraignment in Los Angeles Superior Court.