STOCKTON — In a courtroom crowded with their family members and friends on Thursday, six people accused of taking part in a gang-related crime spree, which authorities said included three homicides, had their arraignment continued until the end of August.
Jesus Martinez, 20; Salvador Vega, 28; Jose Daniel Maya, 18; and Adrian Jesus Henry, 20, face multiple charges, including murder, attempted murder and conspiracy, and also gang enhancements, according to a complaint filed by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office. Two women — Esthefania Garces and Letisia Lopez — are charged with being accessories and gang enhancements.
The men and women, who were handcuffed and wearing orange jail-issued jumpsuits, made a brief appearance before Judge Ron Northup on Thursday morning at San Joaquin County Superior Court and were ordered to return for further arraignment at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 27 in Department 8B.
During the hearing, Northup approved Lopez’s request to be released from jail and be placed in pretrial monitoring. The five other defendants are still in the County Jail.
Stockton police on June 19 said a nine-month investigation into 10 alleged gang members of the East Oak Street Norteños — a subset of the larger Norteño street gang — culminated in the arrests of the group.
Detectives began investigating this gang after the homicide of 60-year-old Neftali Gonzalez Castaneda, who was shot and killed during a home burglary about 1:35 a.m. Sept. 16, 2017, in the 2300 block of Hackberry Street, according to authorities.
According to the criminal complaint, Vega, Martinez, Maya and Henry are also being charged with the murders of 18-year-olds Briana Ballesteros and Daniel Ibarra, as well as the attempted murder of two men and for several shootings in Stockton.
Also in court Thursday, the 57-year-old former Stockton Police Department chaplain who was charged by the District Attorney’s Office with molesting two girls from his church appeared for arraignment.
Bruce Echavarre was ordered to return for further arraignment at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 7.
Echavarre faces two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child and three counts of lewd acts upon a child.
According to the Stockton police, Echavarre was the pastor of the victims — two girls ages 12 and 15 — at United Church of the Living God on Thornton Road in Stockton.
Echavarre had also been a volunteer Stockton police chaplain from October 2014 to the day of his May 16 arrest, when he was terminated.
A criminal protective order has been issued forbidding Echavarre from contacting the victims.
Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.