2 women implicated in deadly shooting outside church to be released
Two women whose murder convictions stemming from a shooting outside a Westlake church a decade ago were overturned by an appeals court panel are expected to be released from custody, with prosecutors announcing Wednesday they were unable to pursue a retrial due to changes in state law.
A three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled in February that the state Legislature had “substantially modified the law relating to accomplice liability for murder and attempted murder” following the original 2015 convictions of Janeth Lopez, now 32, and Ivy Navarrete, now 40.
The panel ordered the case to be remanded to give the prosecution an opportunity to retry the two on a “legally viable theory of murder and attempted murder and to retry the criminal gang enhancement” involving the Nov. 4, 2012, killing of Andres Ordonez. The panel upheld the pair’s November 2015 convictions for vandalism.
In court Wednesday, the prosecution announced that due to the changes in state law, it was unable to proceed with a retrial on murder and attempted murder charges against the women, or the gang enhancement. As a result, the pair were re-sentenced to time-served for the misdemeanor vandalism count, meaning they will be released from custody.
The two were charged along with Pedro Martinez, who was described in the appellate court panel’s ruling as the shooter. Martinez’s December 2014 convictions on one count each of first-degree murder, attempted murder and vandalism were subsequently upheld in 2016, and the California Supreme Court refused the following year to review the case against him.
Authorities said Lopez was spray-painting red graffiti on a church wall when she was confronted by one of the parishioners outside Iglesia Principe de Paz in the 3000 block of West Beverly Boulevard, with Ordonez and another person then coming to the parishioner’s aid.
Ordonez, 25, was struck in the chest by a shot fired by Martinez, authorities said. Another person was wounded.
“An act of vandalism — spraying graffiti on a church wall — ended with one person dead and a second wounded,” Presiding Justice Dennis M. Perluss wrote on behalf of the appellate panel in the 29-page ruling in February.
The appellate court panel’s opinion noted that Lopez “had marked the church wall with spray paint” and that Navarrete drove Martinez and Lopez away from the church after the shooting.
A Los Angeles police officer testified that Lopez was a known gang member and that he believed Martinez was a gang member and opined that Navarrete was a gang associate, according to the ruling.
All three defendants were sentenced to potential life prison terms.
Ordonez’ s widow, the granddaughter of the church’s pastor and three months pregnant at the time of the shooting, was sitting in a car in a nearby parking lot because she wasn’t feeling well. She told reporters at the time that she thought her husband was coming out to check on her when he encountered the tagger.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was a city councilman at the time, called the crime “perhaps one of the most reprehensible acts I’ve seen here in my entire time as a City Council member.”