Sat, Jul 14 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Neal Putnam
Following three days of testimony, a judge on July 5 ordered two men to stand trial for the 2011 drive-by murder of a National City man. But the judge threw out charges that both men committed the act as members of a criminal street gang.
Chula Vista Superior Court Judge Francis Devaney described the April 29, 2011, slaying of Jordan Hickey as “cowardly and depraved.”
Hickey, 21, who was developmentally disabled, was killed from three shotgun blasts as he was pushing his bike up a steep hill.
Both Humberto Emanuel Galvez, 19, who is the alleged gunman, and Juan Ignacio Gomez, 21, the driver, will next appear in court on July 19 to set a trial date.
The judge encouraged the prosecutor to advise the court that day whether the death penalty will be sought.
Both men face a special circumstance of killing someone in a drive-by shooting. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has not yet announced whether her office will seek the death penalty or a life sentence without parole if both are convicted of first-degree murder.
“I would prefer the death penalty. That’s what they gave my son,” said Jeannine Hickey, the victim’s mother in a KUSI (Channel 9) interview.
“That’s what they deserve. They blasted him. It was pretty much like a firing squad from the car,” said Jeannine Hickey, who attended the hearing all three days.
Her son was found dead in the 2800 block of Grove Street at 12:35 a.m. in an unincorporated area of National City. A torso wound was the fatal injury, but he was also shot in the arm and thigh.
Hickey was on his way home where he lived with his mother in National City.
The judge noted that much of the hearing’s focus was on whether the two men acted with a criminal street gang which could have added more years to a sentence. Devaney threw out one special circumstance that alleged the slaying was gang related.
Deputy District Attorney David Grapilon put on evidence that Gomez wwas affiliated with the Wicked Klowns gang, but the judge noted there was no documentation of such a gang before the slaying. Devaney said most evidence about the Wicked Klowns group was documented this year.
Devaney said the Wicked Klowns group was primarily noted for tagging graffiti, but not shootings or robberies. He also questioned whether a bunch of people who spray graffiti on buildings or vehicles should be considered a gang.
“There was absolutely no evidence that this homicide was related to gangs,” said Galvez’s attorney, Frank Puglia, afterward. “He did the right thing and he’s a good judge.”
San Diego Police officer Lori Black testified she found Gomez’s notebook with references to Wicked Klowns in the Logan Avenue home where he lived with Galvez, who is his cousin.
Gomez also has a Wicked Klowns tattoo on his arm which resembles “an evil looking clown face,” said Grapilon.
Black testified Gomez wrote in his notebook the phrase “Wicked Klowns that’s what I bang” and made a reference to the Hickey murder with the words “three rounds bursting.”
Attorney Ricardo Garcia, who represents Gomez, said there were different writing styles in the notebook and others had written in it. Garcia said the prosecution was “inventing organizations” to prove his case.
The men were also ordered to stand trial for conspiracy to commit murder and attempted robbery of another victim on Feb. 12. Both men were arrested March 22 by sheriff’s deputies and both remain in George Bailey Detention Facility on $2 million bail.
Both men wore blue jail clothing and had chains around their waists during the hearing.
A key witness testified July 2 that both men admitted to him they were responsible for killing Hickey. The witness wore a hidden recording device and some of the recording was played in the hearing. After deputies arrested the suspects they played some of the audio to them.
Both Galvez and Gomez admitted their roles in the murder during interviews with detectives afterward.
“I think citizens should be proud of the sheriff’s detectives,” said Grapilon, adding the department did “a phenomenal job” of investigating the murder where there were initially no leads.
© 2009 The Star-News