Man accused in deadly gang shooting of Escondido woman pleads no - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Man accused in deadly gang shooting of Escondido woman pleads not guilty

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Dionicio "Junior" Torrez, age 24 -- Photo: Facebook Dionicio "Junior" Torrez, age 24 -- Photo: Facebook
Photo: Facebook Photo: Facebook

VISTA (CBS 8/CNS) - A man accused in a gang shooting in Escondido that killed a female motorist driving home from church pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of murder, attempted murder of rival gang members and shooting at an occupied vehicle.

Dionicio Crespin Torrez Jr. 24, also faces gang special circumstances that could lead to the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

A 16-year-old boy also was arrested in connection with the shooting that killed 55-year-old Catherine Kennedy. He is scheduled to have a detention hearing in Juvenile Court on Monday.

Police said Torrez was shooting at two rival gang members who were spraying graffiti in the neighborhood.  Kennedy was struck by a stray bullet while driving through the alleged gang confrontation in Escondido on March 7 shortly after 9:00 p.m.

Kennedy suffered a gunshot wound to her head.  Her Toyota Camry then crashed into a vehicle parked alongside eastbound Grand Avenue near Midway Drive, according to Escondido police Lt. Justin Murphy. 

Kennedy was taken to Palomar Medical Center after the shooting, but later died from her injuries.

Court records show Torrez has no violent criminal history in San Diego county.  His one misdemeanor conviction came from a vandalism charge filed in 2011 and prosecuted as a misdemeanor because the damage was under $400.

A judge sentenced Torrez to three years probation and ordered him to take anger management classes, the records show.  Over a period of five years, Torrez repeatedly violated the terms of his probation, though, resulting in five arrest warrants being issued.  Eventually, probation was revoked and ended in 2016.

Torrez also has three arrests on misdemeanor vehicle theft charges, according to court records.  Those arrests were in 2011, 2012 and 2013.  In all three cases, the San Diego County District Attorney declined to file charges for lack of evidence.

Additionally, county birth records indicate Torrez is the father of a two-year-old boy.

The defendant's father -- Dionicio Torrez, Sr. -- has a handful of felony cases on file in San Diego county.  The 50-year-old Torrez, Sr. currently is serving time for a drug conviction in San Diego Central Jail downtown, according to online jail records.

Torrez, Jr. is being held without bail at the Vista jail and will be back in court March 28 for a readiness conference. A preliminary hearing is set for April 3.

Escondido Police are still investigating this crime. Anyone with information on the case is asked to call detectives at 760-839-4926 or 760-839-4422. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling 760-743-8477.

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