Jury convicts two men and a woman in killing of 17-year-old drug informant
NORWALK, Calif. – Two men and a woman were convicted Monday of murdering a teen-ager police had used as a drug informant. Each faces a possible death sentence when the jury hears testimony in the trial’s penalty phase.
Jose Ibarra, 21, Michael Martinez, 22, and Florence Noriega, 30, became eligible for the death penalty because their convictions include special circumstances of murder committed during a kidnapping and robbery.
Chad MacDonald, 17, was slain in March 1998 and his 16-year-old girlfriend was raped, shot in the head and left for dead. She survived and testified during the trial.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dewey Falcone ordered the jury to return Nov. 2 to begin the penalty phase.
The three defendants also were convicted on charges of kidnapping, robbery and attempted murder of MacDonald’s girlfriend. Several of those convictions carry additional circumstances of use of a weapon and infliction of great bodily injury.
Ibarra and Noriega also were convicted of rape in concert, while Martinez was acquitted on the rape charge. Ibarra was convicted of an additional charge of forcible oral copulation of the girlfriend.
The youth’s death led to a new law restricting use of minors in undercover police work.
Cindy MacDonald, the murder victim’s mother, claimed her son was killed because he was involved in undercover work for the Brea and Yorba Linda police departments.
Police officials said MacDonald was not working for them at the time he went to the Norwalk home where he was slain. He had worked for the agencies for a time in the previous two months after a Jan. 6, 1998, arrest, but police said he had been dismissed as an informant because of an ensuing arrest.
The defendants, who reportedly suspected MacDonald was an informant, had been attempting to deliver a non-fatal beating, Ibarra’s attorney Forrest Latiner told the jury in an opening statement Oct. 5. He also said the youth was ”a 112-pound weakling with a toxic level of meth in his system” that may have contributed to his death.
MacDonald’s body was found March 3, 1998, in a South Los Angeles alley. His girlfriend was raped, shot in the jaw and dumped in an Angeles National Forest drainage culvert. She was found bloody and wandering in the wilderness.
The girlfriend, now 18, testified that MacDonald drank and smoked methamphetamine with the three defendants the day before the killing. She testified she could hear MacDonald being strangled in the living room of the attackers’ home while Martinez detained her in the kitchen.
The slaying launched a debate about the use of minors in police investigations. The state Legislature passed a bill that prohibits the use of children ages 12 and younger as informants and requires police to get permission from a judge to use youths ages 13 to 17.