Prosecutors have charged three people previously arrested in connection with the fatal hold-up of a man on Angeles Crest Highway with robbery but not murder, authorities said Friday.
Luis Ventura, 24, identified in court records by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office as “Adonite,” was charged with the robbery of Jessie Munoz, 32, who was fatally shot July 22 while parked on the scenic highway. Ventura also was charged with robbing a woman who was with Munoz.
Rossel Jose Hernandez, 21, and Wendy Sarai Cerritos, 20, were charged with four counts of robbery involving two earlier incidents in which prosecutors allege they held up people on July 18 and July 20.
The trio were among five men and a woman arrested Tuesday night by Pasadena police in connection with Munoz’s killing.
Announcing the arrests earlier this week, Pasadena homicide Lt. Keith Gomez said those in custody were also believed to be connected to a fatal shooting in Rancho Palos Verdes early Monday. The victims in that attack — Jorge Ramos, 36, and Taylorraaven Whittaker, 26 — were shot to death while sitting in a parked car at a scenic overlook.
Authorities also say those who were arrested are part of a Los Angeles street gang, with Hernandez using the alias “Delinquente” and Cerritos going by “Tortelita.”
Sources familiar with the investigation said the robbery charges filed by district attorney amount to something of a hold for the suspects while Pasadena police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives work to determine who fired the fatal shots in the two attacks. Pasadena police said the other three who had been arrested were released from custody.
Investigators from multiple agencies — including Pasadena police, Los Angeles police and the Sheriff’s Department — are now examining whether other armed robberies may be connected to those originally detained.
The investigation began a week ago after authorities responding to what was initially reported as a car crash on the notoriously curving Angeles Crest Highway discovered the driver had been shot multiple times. A female passenger survived the attack, and Pasadena police soon learned that Munoz, despite being critically wounded, drove the vehicle away from his assailants.
Two days after Munoz’s killing, a couple were shot to death inside a car parked on Palos Verdes Drive. Deputies on patrol found the bullet-riddled car and the bodies of Ramos and Whittaker about 6:50 a.m. at the ocean overlook.
Video from the scene showed a blue Subaru WRX in the parking lot with what appeared to be at least four bullet holes in the driver’s side windows.
Sheriff’s homicide Det. Ray Lugo said that four people were suspected in the double homicide and that it was a random violent robbery. Three men had approached the Subaru while a woman waited in a getaway car. One or more people opened fire, Lugo said, describing the shooting as “a robbery attempt that went wrong.”
Lugo declined, however, to say whether the department had connected the shooting to any other attacks.
Gomez said Pasadena police believe “there is a connection” between the two cases. But speaking at a news conference Wednesday, he deferred questions on the Rancho Palos Verdes investigation to the Sheriff’s Department.
Gomez said the investigation into the vehicle believed to be the getaway car in the Angeles Crest Highway led to a multiagency arrest in Panorama City, where the vehicle was “pinned in by law enforcement personnel in the 7600 Block of Woodman Street.” In that incident, five men were taken into custody and two semiautomatic firearms were recovered from the vehicle, Gomez said.
A female suspect was simultaneously taken into custody in the 900 Block of West 85th Street in Los Angeles, and a search warrant was executed at multiple locations.
Gomez said Pasadena detectives have shared evidence with the Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the Rancho Palos Verdes killings.
LAPD is assisting but so far has not tied to robbery crew to any other crimes in the city.