The Gang's All Here

Her grandmother will never forget the day Venus Montoya died. And she will never forgive her killers.

Alejandro Ornelas had bragged to Jesse about the killing. "I smoked that bitch, and I'm gonna chill and hang out for a while," he'd said. Gerard Ornelas had confirmed that his brother "smoked that bitch."

None of them had known Venus Montoya. But Sal Martinez had been in her apartment at one time, and that was enough for them.

Quintana was upset that the Ornelas brothers had talked with Jesse about the shooting. And his concerns were justified when the police raided the brothers' apartment and found an assault rifle, black gloves and a black ski mask.

Quintana and Alejandro Ornelas got to work on their alibi. There had been a party, they decided, and some "Baby Gs"--young gangster wannabes--had taken their guns, returning them sometime later.

Word was out with the Westside CMG Bloods that Jesse was not to be trusted. Richard "Mickey" Avila called and told him not to talk to police. Quintana, Gerard Ornelas and Francisco "Bisco" Guzman were more direct: They told Jesse they thought he was a snitch and said he'd better go "take care of business" and try to explain himself. They warned him that whoever talked could count on being the next CMG target. It was the equivalent of a death sentence, Jesse told the cops.

Everyone came to Venus's funeral but the younger of her two brothers. He'd pleaded with the authorities to let him out of prison long enough to say goodbye, but his request was denied. Instead, he sat alone in his cell with dark thoughts of revenge.

Becky prayed that the police would catch Venus's killers, but she didn't cling to any false hopes. After all, everybody knew who had killed her son, but the police had said there wasn't enough evidence to arrest him. It galled her to see the man out walking the streets years after she'd buried her son.

As the weeks turned into months, Becky feared that Venus's murderers might never be punished, either.

Becky felt like someone had torn her heart out and left a gaping hole. Of all the children she had lost, Venus's death was the hardest. She had been so young, so full of life and love.

Perhaps it was fortunate that Becky was left with Angel, her great-grandson, to look after. The little boy wandered from room to room looking for his mother. When would she come to get him? Why wasn't she home?

Once again, Becky had custody of a child too young to understand the finality of death. Some day she would tell Angel the whole truth. But for now, she explained that bad men had hurt his mother and that God had taken her and made her a star in the night sky.

It seemed an appropriate story for the granddaughter who had spent so much time looking up. Becky chose the brightest, most beautiful star, and told Angel it was his mother watching over him.

However slowly the wheels of justice might be turning in the Montoya murder investigation, they were turning steadily. Detective Richardson explained to Becky that although he might know who Venus's killers were, he didn't have enough to arrest them: He wanted a conviction. And that would take time, because he needed to crack the gang code of silence.

In August the ballistics report came back from the crime lab. The gun seized at the Ornelases' apartment was a positive match for the gun that had killed Venus.

Sal Martinez and Biggs had admitted they were at the apartment that night, but their alibis were solid.

Besides, unknown to the gunmen, there had been witnesses. One witness had seen the killers run to their gray car with the Colorado license plates. As they approached the car, he saw them remove their ski masks. The witness noted that the pair kept on their black gloves.

"I'll drive," one yelled as his comrade headed for the passenger door.
The witness was frightened. Friends and family members had warned him not to get involved in a gang killing; he could end up catching a bullet himself.

Still, he'd talked with the cops. And he'd gone down to the Lakewood Police Department headquarters to view a lineup through a one-way mirror. Quintana, who'd shaved the mustache he'd worn several months before, was the first man in the lineup.

After looking over the lineup, the witness was asked if he wanted to see or hear more from any one of the men. The witness indicated Quintana, who had the same physical build, face, hair and complexion as one of the men he had seen that night, he said.

"But he has different eyes," the witness concluded after a moment.
Another witness, the one who saw two men crouching by a gray car just before the murder, was brought in. He claimed that he couldn't identify any of the men in the lineup. However, Richardson noted that when Quintana stepped forward, the witness began breathing heavily and stared at the gang member.

Alejandro Ornelas was part of a second lineup. The first witness thought he looked familiar, too, but again concluded that the man he had seen that night was not in the lineup. Still, while the witnesses hadn't made positive identifications, Quintana and Alejandro Ornelas were the only two singled out of the lineups for any reason.

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