Witness Is Kill After Gang Murder Trial
A man who provided critical testimony that led to the murder convictions of two fellow gang members was found dead of gunshot wounds, his body dumped alongside a Beaumont road, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.
The body of Melquiades Jose Rojas, 18, of San Bernardino was found Tuesday off Oak Valley Parkway, more than two months after he testified that James Fuentes and Melecio Reyes were on the same San Bernardino street where Francisco Ferreira, 25, was killed in a drive-by shooting in June 2003.
"Beaumont police identified the body , backtracked and found out he had recently testified in a homicide case," said Cheryl Kersey, a prosecutor in the San Bernardino County district attorney's office hard-core-criminal and gang unit.
Kersey said San Bernardino police were helping Beaumont police in the investigation, seeking to establish whether Rojas' death was connected to the trial. Kersey declined to say whether that link had already been established.
In court, Rojas testified that he was a member of the West Side Verdugo street gang — the same one to which prosecutors said Reyes and Fuentes belonged. Rojas testified Jan. 31 that Reyes and Fuentes visited his home, across the street from the Ferreira home in the 200 block of 24th Street, in the minutes before he heard gunshots.
Another neighbor testified she saw Ferreira collapse as he tried to retreat into his home after the shooting.