Murder Defendant in 24-Year-Old Cold Case Sentenced for Triple Homicide

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that a 47-year-old man who shot and killed three people, including a 22-month-old baby, on Labor Day in 2000, has been sentenced to three terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 75 years to life.

In September 2000, Sergio Contreras opened fire into an apartment, after one of the residents failed to pay for a small amount of illegal drugs. Contreras shot 27-year-old Michael Plummer more than a dozen times. He also shot 18-year-old Adah Pearson in the heart as she lay sleeping on the couch. Another shot went through the wall and hit 22-month-old Julio Rangel, Jr. in the head as he lay asleep on a bed in the next room. All three victims died from their wounds. Contreras fled and case went cold for several years.

Contreras was initially a suspect in the crime, but it wasn’t until 2007, after additional witnesses came forward, that murder charges were filed. On March 22, 2023, Contreras was successfully extradited from Mexico where he had been serving time for an unrelated robbery and murder.

“When a murder is unsolved for decades, it takes an enormous toll on the victim’s loved ones, but now the families of Michael Plummer, Adah Pearson and Julio Rangel Jr. have a measure of justice after many years of mourning their loss,” DA Stephan said. “I am grateful to our Cold Case Unit and detectives in the San Diego Police Department who worked tirelessly on this case until it was solved, and the killer was brought to justice.”

Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg prosecuted this case.

Established in 2003, the DA’s Cold Case Homicide Unit works with law enforcement to solve and prosecute unsolved murders. The victims come from all walks of life and from all areas of the county, including children and the elderly. The District Attorney’s Office prioritizes these cases through the Cold Case Unit, which has dedicated and experienced investigators and prosecutors who use the latest forensic technology to deliver justice to victims.

The oldest case solved and prosecuted by the unit is the 1969 rape and murder of Mary Scott which resulted in a conviction following a trial in 2022. The Cold Case Unit also manages the Cold Homicide and Research Genealogy Effort (CHARGE.) Funded by a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, CHARGE uses the power of investigative genetic genealogy to solve more cold case homicides. The San Diego District Attorney’s Office was one of only 10 prosecutor’s offices nationwide to receive this grant.

Violent Cartel Associates Sentenced to Life in Prison for Kidnapping for Ransom

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that three defendants, who were previously indicted by a grand jury, were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences for their violent acts on behalf of a Mexican drug cartel. Defendants Victor Medrano, 44, and Eliceo Flores, 36 were sentenced to life in state prison without parole and defendant Emily Gonzalez, 33, was sentenced to 24 years, eight months in custody. A fourth indicted defendant, 32-year-old Julie Soto, is scheduled for trial in December.

All four defendants were indicted by a grand jury for their roles in the kidnappings of two women, who allegedly stole from the Sinaloa Cartel. The two men were also indicted for brutally assaulting the two women. Flores, Medrano, and Soto were further indicted for a variety of conspiracies to sell large amounts of fentanyl, meth, heroin, and ghost guns on behalf of the cartel. Additionally, Flores and Medrano were indicted for conspiracies to commit a separate kidnapping, robbery, possession of numerous stolen vehicles, and for passing over $10,000 in fraudulent checks.

“Drug cartels are a serious and violent threat to our community and their criminal networks should not and will not be allowed to operate in our county,” DA Stephan said. “Let this case be an example of the type of justice that will be brought forth by our dedicated gang prosecutors who work with our law enforcement partners and who risk their lives to deliver justice on behalf of victims to protect the community.”

Medrano and Flores each pleaded guilty on June 5 to two counts of kidnapping for ransom causing bodily harm. Gonzalez pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnapping and carjacking. Both Flores and Gonzalez also admitted to having a serious felony strike prior.

The grand jury indictment alleges that Soto, Medrano, and Flores were part of a large-scale drug and gun importation scheme, with Medrano referring to Soto as “the big boss” and “the one that takes care of most SD.” The indictment references messages from the group about pounds of methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl powder for sale. Additional messages discuss the illicit sale of AR-15 assault rifles and ghost handguns. The indictment also describes efforts by Medrano and Flores to kidnap, attempt to kidnap, or “take out” several different victims.

The grand jury alleged that on May 2, 2022, Soto was actively looking for one of two women, who Soto suspected had stolen a load of drugs. Soto allegedly contacted Medrano about retrieving the stolen items. Medrano, Flores, and Gonzalez drove to the victims’ El Cajon residence, where the two men forcibly entered and ordered the victims to leave at gunpoint. The trio took the victims to a house in Lemon Grove and held them for ransom before transporting the women to Medrano’s Chula Vista home.

Once inside Medrano’s home, the indictment alleges Medrano, Flores, and Gonzalez drugged the victims, threatened the victims with torture, and then brutally assaulted the women.

In a statement to the court, one of the victims described the women as “survivors of an unimaginable ordeal.” She described the anxiety and PTSD she has endured since this “humiliating” incident and remarked at how “truly scary [it is] to know that people with these characteristics and mindsets live among us.” Ultimately, she addressed the male defendants, saying that even though they only pleaded guilty to the aggravated kidnapping charges, she “rest[s] just fine because God knows what you did and there’s no way around that one. Now the question of the day: was it worth it? Was the money that was promised you worth the rest of your life? I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if that does happen, hopefully you don’t decide to be a puppet in that life as you were in this one.”

Deputy District Attorney Drew Garrison prosecuted this case.

Photo of a judge's gavel and handcuffs on top of books.

Burglars on U.S. Visa Waivers Sentenced to Prison in Carlsbad Theft Case

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that three defendants who burglarized a home in Carlsbad in January, were sentenced prison terms between four and six years. The group is part of a foreign traveling crew using the Visa Waiver Program to get into the country to commit ‘burglary tourism,’ which has exploded in prevalence across the country.

Christian Tapia, 39 and Romai Aranedapogge, 36 each received a six-year prison sentence and Joe Acevedo, 20, was sentenced to four years. All three pleaded guilty on June 4 to conspiracy to commit burglary, residential burglary, identity theft and resisting arrest.

“These criminals not only stole cash and valuables from the victims, but they also stole the community’s peace of mind,” DA Stephan said. “The message is clear: If organized criminal burglary rings come to San Diego County to commit crime, they will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

On January 25, Carlsbad Police officers responded to a residence in a neighborhood that just months before was the subject to several residential burglaries. Once at the residence, police identified a suspect vehicle with stolen plates. When police secured the perimeter, the three defendants ran from the home into neighboring yards. When the defendants were caught and upon further investigation, police found that the defendants were wanted in Illinois and in Colorado for similar crimes.

The defendants are from Chile and Italy, and they largely follow the prototype of the South American Theft Group, believed to be responsible for 100 burglaries across San Diego County. Police investigations have found the suspect group to be made up of mostly Chilean men between 18-55. It has been determined that those involved in the theft group travel to the U.S. through the ESTA Visa Waiver program. This program allows people from Chile fill out an online questionnaire with no foreign background checks and receive a 90-day tourist visa. Most of the defendants involved in theft cases in the U.S. also have a criminal record in Chile.

Once in the country, the suspects obtain false foreign driver’s license and IDs and use the fake identities to rent the vehicles. The burglary team members will all have what is considered a work phone which most often is a pre-paid cellular phone. The suspects change the phone and or SIM card every 30 days or sooner.

The residential burglaries have similar circumstances. The homes were wealthy neighborhoods where houses backed up open space, a golf course, hiking trail or horse trail. On many homes, entry was made via a second story balcony.

“This case is part of a crime spree that has plagued our nation where organized criminal rings, often with criminal records in their own country, are given a visa to the United States that they use to commit burglary tourism,” DA Stephan said. “I’m proud of the Carlsbad Police department investigation and of our prosecution team for their continued work on taking down these roving theft networks that eat away at the safety and security of residential neighborhoods.”

Deputy District Attorney Malak Behrouznami prosecuted this case.

Photo of gavel and scales of justice.

Eight Antifa Defendants Sentenced in Pacific Beach Assault Case

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that eight defendants convicted in connection with violent criminal acts committed during a demonstration in Pacific Beach have been sentenced and the case, which garnered national attention, is now closed.

 “From the start this prosecution has been about holding individuals accountable for conspiring to bring violence to our community, something we won’t tolerate,” said DA Stephan. “This was a complex case with all 11 defendants convicted. Our prosecution team worked tirelessly with law enforcement on this case to ensure our community remains safe, and that the rule of law is followed.”

Alexander Akridgejacobs, 33; Brian Cortez Lightfoot Jr., 27; Christian Martinez, 25; Ruchelle Ogden, 26; Bryan Rivera, 22; Faraz Martin Talab, 29; Joseph Austin Gaskins, 23; and Jeremy White, 41 received sentences ranging from 180 days in jail to two years in prison. Three other defendants have already been sentenced to state prison ranging from two years, eight months to five years.

The sentencings come after a criminal grand jury returned indictments against 11 individuals charged with crimes including conspiracy to commit a riot, use of tear gas, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury. In lieu of a preliminary hearing, the grand jury heard testimony over 13 days and delivered the unsealed indictment in May of 2022. In total, the defendants were indicted on 29 felony counts.

The grand jury indictment noted that the defendants were all affiliated with Antifa. A group of the defendants were based in the Los Angeles area and the remaining defendants were from San Diego County. Ten of the defendants faced conspiracy charges after the indictment and prosecutors told the court that the objective of the conspiracy was to incite and participate in a riot. It’s believed that this is the first criminal case in the nation where crimes committed by members of Antifa were brought to justice and held accountable.

In January of 2021, Antifa supporters posted on social media calling for “counterprotesting” and direct action in response to a scheduled political demonstration in Pacific Beach. The defendants and other uncharged co-conspirators confirmed their support and participation by showing up in Pacific Beach dressed in black clothing and armed with weapons and protective gear.

As the case made its way through the criminal justice system, nine of the defendants entered guilty pleas and two others were convicted by a jury at trial.  All defendants indicted by the criminal grand jury for conspiracy entered a plea to that charge or were convicted of that charge at trial.

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorneys Makenzie Harvey, William Hopkins, and Evan Andersen with investigative support from District Attorney Investigator Jonah Conley and SDPD Detective Emily Clark.

Woman pushing shopping cart in supermarket.

DA Warns of Purse Snatchers Targeting Elderly Women at Supermarkets

In the wake of a criminal case filed against three defendants, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan is warning the public about criminals  targeting elderly women at shopping centers throughout the county to steal their purses while they shop. Three defendants have been arrested and arraigned in a current case that involves 15 separate victims, most of whom are elderly Filipino/Asian women between the ages of 64 and 89.

The incidents happened between January and April of this year in the cities of San Diego and National City. The thieves canvas shopping centers and wait for elderly women to leave stores and walk to their cars. When the victims put their purses in the passenger seat of their vehicles as they load up their groceries, the defendants pull their car up, one of them gets out and grabs the purse off the front seat of the car and runs to the getaway car. In most cases, the suspects use the victims’ stolen credit cards and pawn any other valuable items. While the value of the stolen property may not always include a large amount of money, the emotional impact to these victims is often significant.

Defendant Shawntece Davis, 32, was arraigned in San Diego Superior Court today, while her two co-defendants, Kenya Frazier, 29, and David Anthony Foster, 67, were arraigned last week. All three face multiple counts of theft from an elder, robbery, burglary, and conspiracy to commit elder theft, among other charges. The defendants face up to 8 and 17 years in state prison if convicted of all charges.

Those who prey on the elderly should understand that these crimes will not be tolerated and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In this case the defendants were caught, thanks to great investigative work and collaboration from the National City and the San Diego Police Departments,” said DA Stephan. “In order to keep our community safe, especially the elderly and vulnerable, it is important that everyone remains vigilant and aware of their surroundings and hold on to their personal belongings while they are out shopping.”

Prosecutors say these types of crimes are occurring in every area of the county. They advise women in busy shopping centers to avoid shopping with large purses and never leave purses unattended in the shopping cart or open in their vehicles while focused on other tasks. Law enforcement is also reminding the public that if you see something, say something. And if you believe you witness suspicious activity in shopping center parking lots, document license plate numbers and physical descriptions of those involved.  

“Abuse and crimes against the elderly come in many forms. It’s sickening to see criminals prey on our most vulnerable community members,” said SDPD Chief of Police Scott Wahl. “We are committed to ensuring anyone who victimizes our seniors will be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.”

“I am incredibly proud of our officers working closely with the San Diego Police Department for their exceptional work on these series-related cases,” said National City Police Chief Alejandro Hernandez. “This case highlights the importance of teamwork in safeguarding our community.”

In North County, the DA’s Family Protection Unit is also prosecuting similar but separate cases with theft rings targeting elderly women shopping. Thieves are taking the wallets from purses when victims put their purses in the shopping cart and don’t pay attention while they shop. Deputy District Attorney Scott Pirrello, who leads the DA’s Elder Abuse Unit is prosecuting the case involving the three defendants Davis, Frazier, and Foster.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was last Saturday and serves as a reminder that we need to continue to work together to help our elders avoid becoming exploited and victimized. Older people throughout the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation. Elder abuse also creates health care and legal costs for our society. The District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Unit, which is part of the Family Protection Division, works to protect seniors through crime prevention outreach and prosecution of those who prey on seniors.

If a situation appears to be life threatening or a crime is in progress, call 9-1-1 or your local law enforcement agencies such as police and Sheriff’s departments. Some agencies have specialized units that focus on crimes involving elder and dependent adults. If you believe elder or dependent abuse has occurred, call Adult Protective Services at 1-800-339-4661.


Photo of DUI Homicide Unit with Deputy DA Edith Flores receiving "Prosecutor of the Year" Award by MADD.

Deputy DA Recognized as Prosecutor of the Year

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that Deputy District Attorney Edith Flores was recognized as Prosecutor of the Year for her work in the DA’s DUI Homicide Unit by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) at the annual MADD San Diego Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition Awards held June 6 at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse.

“We often focus on driving under the influence of alcohol, but we are seeing many cases involving driving under the influence of drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs and the results are often deadly,” said DA Stephan. “This recognition by MADD speaks to Deputy District Attorney Edith Flores’ dedication to delivering justice for victims and their families. Edith successfully prosecutes difficult drug-DUI cases and overcomes challenging defenses by educating jurors on the signs and symptoms of drug use. I am very proud to have Edith on our team and I know this award is very well-deserved.”

In 2023, 28 people were killed in 26 DUI-related crashes in San Diego County. So far in 2024, there have been nine people killed. In 2023, the DA’s Office filed 4,805 DUI cases, including 234 DUI drug cases and 153 combined alcohol and drug impairment cases. Between January and March 2024, the DA’s Office filed 1,459 new DUI cases, including 76 DUI drug cases and 24 combined alcohol and drug impairment cases.

Recipients of MADD’s awards are chosen through a call for nominations process. The organization reaches out to community partners, law enforcement agencies, local officials and their internal victim advocates asking them to nominate individuals who stand out in the community with regards to DUI-related work. Every year, MADD honors law enforcement officials for their continuous efforts in driving under the influence enforcement. This year, in person, the event recognized law enforcement with awards for the number of DUI arrests made annually.

Photo of DUI Homicide Unit with Deputy DA Edith Flores receiving "Prosecutor of the Year" Award by MADD.Deputy DA Flores was nominated by Deputy DA Hailey Williams, the Director of the DA’s DUI Homicide Unit. Edith is one of the original members of the DA’s specialized misdemeanor drug DUI prosecution team since 2023, when she volunteered to join the drug DUI team in El Cajon and handled a caseload of almost entirely drug DUI cases. As the sole member of the El Cajon drug DUI prosecution team that year, Edith handled almost all misdemeanor drug DUI cases in her jurisdiction – everything from issuing charges through jury trial.

Although jurors are familiar with alcohol intoxication, it can be difficult for them to grasp the sometimes more subtle signs and symptoms of someone impaired by drugs and to understand how those drugs impact the ability to be safe behind the wheel of a car. Edith took it upon herself to become as educated as possible on all things drug DUIs so she could best present her cases to a jury. She attended trainings alongside officers, she went on ride-alongs and observed DUI checkpoints to learn how to make the sometimes-nuanced information gathered by officers in the field relevant to a jury’s decision.

Edith’s dedication to successful prosecution of these cases has removed dangerous drugged drivers from San Diego’s roadways. With each DUI drug case filed, Edith worked to hold these drivers fully accountable for their actions. In 2023, Edith secured guilty verdicts on each drug DUI case she tried before a jury, including defendants impaired by alprazolam, cocaine, methamphetamine, and inhalants. She also paved the way for this year’s expanded specialized misdemeanor drug DUI team which has grown to include six attorneys who continue to build upon her work from last year.

Other award recipients included Deputy City Attorney Anthony Esquibel of the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, who was also awarded Prosecutor of the Year; Victor Grewal was awarded Outstanding Volunteer; California Highway Patrol Officer Anthony Alvarez, San Diego Sheriff Deputy Alfredo Lozano, California Highway Patrol Officer Drew Knowles, and La Mesa Police Officer Marcus Williams were all awarded the Outstanding Rookie Award; California Highway Patrol Officer Joshua Ketcher and California Highway Patrol Officer Malik Lanius were both awarded the Outstanding Officer Award; the MADD Century Award went to California Highway Patrol Officer Steven Rutledge, who made 100 DUI arrests, Carlsbad Police Officer Matt Taira, who made 106 DUI arrests, San Diego Sheriff Corporal Jason Malson, who made 108 DUI arrests, and San Diego Sheriff Corporal Eric Rader, who made 116 DUI arrests; and finally the MADD Top Cop awardee was Escondido Police Officer Timothy Hamilton who made 144 DUI arrests.

Photo of gavel, law books and scales of justice on a wooden table.

South Bay Pastor Charged for Failing to Report Suspected Sexual Abuse

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that a South Bay pastor has been charged with failure to report known or suspected child abuse in his role as a legally mandated reporter. Eric Manuel Merino, 43, a pastor at Victory Outreach Church in San Ysidro was arraigned in San Diego Superior Court today on one misdemeanor count.

The case against Merino is connected to the sexual abuse of a teenager at the hands of church choir leader Rafael Valentin Magana. Magana, 27, was convicted in April of one felony count of a lewd act upon a child 14 or 15 years of age. He will be required to register as a sex offender and faces up to three years in prison when he is sentenced on June 18.

The sexual abuse was reported to Pastor Merino, triggering his legal duty to notify law enforcement or child welfare services. However, Merino failed to do so.

“Youth in San Diego County deserve to have a safe and healthy environment, free of sexual or physical abuse — whether at school or at church,” DA Stephan said. “When that kind of abuse does happen, it’s critical that those incidents don’t fall through the cracks and that the people in positions of authority follow their duty to report suspected abuse so victims can be supported, and abusers can be held responsible for their crimes. Following the law of mandated reporting can potentially protect another child from being sexually abused by the perpetrator.”

California law mandates that certain professionals, known as mandated reporters, must report any suspected cases of child sexual abuse. These individuals include clergy members, teachers, doctors, social workers, police officers, and other professionals who regularly work with children. Under the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), these mandated reporters are legally required to report their suspicions to child protective services or law enforcement immediately, and they must submit a written report within 36 hours. Failure to comply with these reporting requirements can result in criminal penalties, including fines and incarceration. The law is designed to ensure prompt intervention to protect children from harm.

If convicted of the charge, Merino faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The District Attorney’s Office maintains a Student Safety in School Systems Task Force, which works to make sure that mandated reporters are complying with their legal obligations to report known or suspected acts of physical and sexual abuse against minors that occur in San Diego County.

This case is being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Kristi Gill in the DA’s Special Operations Division. The division and the Task Force review allegations where mandated reporters of sexual or physical abuse fail to comply with their legal duties.

More information about the Task Force and how to report suspected abuse can be found at

Photo of hand pouring blue pills from a small zip lock bag.

Murder Charges in Fentanyl Overdose Death

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that two individuals have been charged with murder in connection with the fentanyl overdose death of 31-year-old Connor Gerhart. Defendants Sheri Cavanaugh, 59, and her co-conspirator, Micah Seau,31, are both charged with murder and conspiracy to commit a crime. The pair conspired to sell the victim fentanyl pills which resulted in his overdose death.

“These defendants were aware of the dangers of the illegal drugs they were selling and in a callous indifference to the victim’s overdose death, conspired to continue dealing this poison in our communities,” said DA Stephan. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to hold individuals accountable for murder in cases like this and work to deliver justice for Connor’s family and loved ones.”

On June 2, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Overdose Response Team responded to the scene of the overdose and immediately commenced an investigation. During their investigation, they established that Seau and Gerhardt were longtime friends and that Cavanaugh and Seau were longtime associates dealing illegal narcotics. The investigation further showed that on May 31, 2023, Seau purchased at least $1,200 worth of fentanyl pills from co-defendant Cavanaugh in La Mesa. Thereafter, Seau invited the victim to pick up his pills and charged him $700. Mr. Gerhart picked up the pills, took some of them, and died on the evening of June 1. He was found in his home by a family friend. In the days following Gerhart’s death, Seau and Cavanaugh continued to be in contact regarding Seau purchasing more narcotics.

“Connor Gerhart is gone too soon,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Anthony Chrysanthis. “His life was stolen by careless drug dealers who chose money over life. Removing those who sell fake pills and endanger the community is one of the top priorities for the DEA.”

Seau and Cavanaugh were both arrested without incident on May 31 at their homes. They were arraigned this Tuesday in San Diego Superior Court and pleaded not guilty. A readiness hearing was set for June 12. If convicted of all the charges, each defendant faces up to 15 years-to-life in state prison.

“Fentanyl continues to fatally plague our communities, said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit. “The impacts we see from Fentanyl sales is overwhelming and destructive, prematurely ending the lives of those struggling with addiction every day.” “The San Diego Police Department, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Narcotics Task Force, in coordination with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office have dedicated significant resources to identify and aggressively prosecute those individuals responsible for the sales of these drugs, especially when such action causes death. This case is a result of the hard work and dedication of investigators to bring those responsible to justice.”

Since 2017, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office has charged eight fentanyl dealers with homicide stemming from selling or furnishing fentanyl-laced drugs.

In 2021 and 2022, there was an average of about 800 deaths in San Diego County  caused by fentanyl or analogs of fentanyl in each year. To put that in perspective, in 2021, San Diego County experienced 88 homicides caused by firearms. That same year, the county saw 814 deaths caused by fentanyl poisoning.

“Fentanyl killed more young people in our nation than any other cause last year,” DA Stephan said. When someone sells fentanyl, knowing how incredibly dangerous that drug is, and another person dies as a result of using that drug, that is murder.” said DA Stephan.

This case is being prosecuted by the DA’s Major Narcotics Division.

Here are five things we should all know about the dangers of Fentanyl.

Photo of a Judge's gavel and a gun.

Defendant who Murdered In-Laws Sentenced to Life Without Parole + 50 Years

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that a 46-year-old man, who was convicted by a jury of killing his father and brother-in-law in Valley Center in June 2022, has been sentenced to two terms of life without the possibility of parole plus 50 years in state prison.

A jury found Christian Bobila guilty on March 20 of two counts of first-degree murder, including firearm enhancements for discharging a gun causing death and the special circumstance of multiple murders.

“This was a horrific murder that senselessly devastated an entire family,” DA Stephan said. “Although nothing is a substitute for the death of the two victims, I hope their surviving family members receive a measure of justice with the murder convictions and with today’s sentence. I’m grateful for the hard work and dedication of the DA team led by Deputy DA Daniel Gochnour and the service of the jury that heard the evidence in this case.”

The murders occurred over a long-simmering family schism that developed after the defendant married his wife without his father-in-law’s blessing. After a long drive from the Bay Area to Valley Center, the defendant — armed with a semi-automatic pistol — carried out his plan to kill on a Sunday evening in June 2022. The defendant executed his brother-in-law, Vincent Reyes, while he spoke on the phone, planning for an upcoming business trip. The defendant fired six rounds, striking Reyes three times.

He then proceeded to the upstairs bedroom of his father-in-law, Vicente Reyes. He found the elder Reyes in a recliner watching a movie while he enjoyed a glass of wine. The defendant told Vicente Reyes, “Three years…” referencing the schism in the family that developed when Bobila married Lylah Reyes-Bobila without Vicente’s blessing. Lylah Reyes-Bobila tried to intervene, but the defendant was determined to kill. Despite his wife’s presence, the defendant fired his pistol shooting Vicente in the chest and head.

After killing Vicente Reyes, Bobila went downstairs and told his mother-in-law, Carmelita Reyes, that her son was dead and pointed out to the patio. Carmelita ran outside and found her son, Vincent, face up in a ‘Just Married’ t-shirt, boasting a date just a few weeks before. The defendant fled in his vehicle and was apprehended a mile from the Reyes family home.

Photo of a gavel with a knife and handcuffs.

Hate Crime Defendant Sentenced for Attack on Black Victim  

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that a 52-year-old hate crime defendant was sentenced to nine years in prison for his violent attack on a Black victim while the two were in a homeless shelter in Carlsbad.

Defendant Jeremy Willis, who pleaded guilty to attempted murder and admitted that he inflicted great bodily injury upon the victim and committed a hate crime, repeatedly stabbed Cassius Hope at the La Posada de Guadalupe shelter in December 2023. When a Good Samaritan witness attempted to alert shelter staff, co-Defendant Scott Williams prevented the Good Samaritan from getting help.

“Cassius Hope was victimized in this brutal hate crimes case just because he was Black,” DA Stephan said. “Unfortunately hate crimes targeting Black people remains the highest category of hate crimes in our county and state. Our lead hate crimes prosecutor Abigail Dillon along with a victim advocate, investigator, paralegal, fought for and supported Mr. Hope throughout the process and were able to achieve justice on his behalf.”

The defendant, who is white, repeatedly called Hope the n-word and made other derogatory comments about Hope’s race while stabbing him at the homeless shelter. As we do with all victims of crime, our office will continue to offer services and support to the victim to assist him in moving past this horrible incident.

Co-Defendant Scott Williams, who pleaded guilty to attempting to dissuade a witness from reporting, was sentenced last week to 16 months in prison.

“Hate against one group is a threat to everyone and we won’t tolerate these crimes in our community,” DA Stephan said. “Anyone considering committing a hate crime should think again as they will be investigated, prosecuted and held accountable under the law.”