By KAREN VELIE
After eight months, five Santa Maria MS-13 gang members, each charged with at least 40 crimes including nine homicides and 14 attempted murders, were found guilty on Thursday of the majority of the charges. [KCOY]
Amid a string of gang violence, murders in Santa Maria increased from three in 2014 to 13 in 2015. Another six people were killed in the city in Jan. 2016.
In March 2016, authorities arrested 15 foreign nationals from Honduras and El Salvador and detained another 40 individuals as part of a multi-state operation targeting suspects in Santa Maria’s murder spree.
Of the 10 defendants in the local case, Juan Membreno, Tranquilino Moraeles, Luis German Orellana, Juan Carlos Serrano and Marcos Torres were found guilty on Thursday of a majority of the charges. The case continues on Monday to determine further issues.
Two of the remaining defendants signed plea agreements, while three others are currently in trial in Santa Barbara.