Prosecutor: Leader of Mexican gang participated in nine murders - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Prosecutor: Leader of Mexican gang participated in nine murders in San Diego County

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Two leaders of the Mexican drug trafficking gang known as Los Palillos participated in several kidnappings, nine murders and other crimes in San Diego County between 2004 to 2007, a prosecutor said Thursday.

After more than six months of testimony, Deputy District Attorney Mark Amador began the prosecution's closing argument in the trial of 34-year-old Jorge Rojas Lopez and 33-year-old Juan Estrada Gonzalez.

Rojas Lopez is charged in nine murders; Estrada-Gonzalez in six. They each face the death penalty if convicted.

"This unprecedented carnage and savagery cannot stand," Amador told the jury.

After the Arellano Felix drug organization killed Rojas Lopez's brother in 2002, he and other members of Los Palillos fled Mexico and set up their drug-running operation in Kansas City and San Diego, Amador said.

The prosecutor said the members of Los Palillos were "cold, calculated, hard men" who committed evil deeds in San Diego County, including shooting at a Chula Vista police officer and murdering two men on a ranch in San Ysidro, then dissolving their bodies in acid.

"They are not the victims," Amador said of the gang members. "They're all killers."

Amador said the defendants were motivated by "greed and revenge."

The "beginning of the end" for Rojas Lopez and Estrada Gonzalez came on June 16, 2007, when they and three fellow members of their gang were arrested after they kidnapped a wealthy businessman and held him for ransom at a Chula Vista residence for eight days, Amador said.

Rojas Lopez told the kidnapped victim's wife that she needed to come up with the ransom money if she wanted to see her husband again.

"If not, I will send him in pieces to your doorstep," Rojas Lopez told the woman, according to Amador.

Rojas Lopez said the Arellano Felix Organization kidnapped and killed in Mexico, "but I have the balls to do it here," according to Amador.

Amador said Rojas Lopez was one of four Los Palillos gang members who in 2004 lured three friends to a home in southern San Diego and eventually killed them. The victims, who were Tijuana residents, were shot and asphyxiated by having socks stuffed down their throats, Amador said. He said one of the victims had ties to drug trafficking.

Amador said both Rojas Lopez and Estrada Gonzalez participated in the August 2005 murder of a 22-year-old low-level drug dealer who was tied up, beaten, stomped or punched and dumped along a road in Chula Vista.

Two weeks later, a man was kidnapped, beaten with a police-type battering ram and killed in Bonita, the prosecutor said. Both Rojas Lopez and Estrada-Gonzalez are charged in that crime.

The defendants are already serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole after being convicted of kidnapping and other crimes. Closing arguments are expected to last several days.

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