A Sonoma County judge ruled Tuesday there is sufficient evidence to try four Santa Rosa gang members for the mistaken-identity slaying of a Vallejo musician.
Judge Arthur Wick also found there was enough proof to try one of the men in a second homicide at Santa Rosa's Kawana Elementary School.
Nineteen-year-old Raul Vega is implicated in both the freeway shooting death of Dewey Tucker, 24, in Contra Costa County on Jan. 12, 2010 and the fatal stabbing of Juan Carlos Angel Esparza, 20, on Jan. 8 at the south Santa Rosa school.
Three co-defendants, Javier Carreon-Lopez, 20 and Hector Barragan and Christopher Mancinas, both 29, were ordered to trial for Tucker's murder.
Wick found there was sufficient evidence to try all the men on a conspiracy charge in the Tucker slaying. Detectives testified the onetime bass player for hip hop singer Lauryn Hill was accidentally targeted when the defendants traveled to Vallejo to avenge a gang threat.
All four were also charged with acting to benefit their sureno street gang.
Wick wasted little time in making his ruling after the hearing in which police testified two of defendants, Vega and Mancinas, admitted roles in the killings.
Investigators said Vega admitted shooting at Tucker as he drove on Interstate 80. Detectives said he also confessed to getting into a knife fight with Esparza on the school grounds.
Carreon-Lopez is suspected of driving the stolen car Vega was riding in. Mancinas is said to have driven all the men to Vallejo from Santa Rosa in another vehicle. Barragan was a passenger.
A Vallejo gang member, Samuel Rodrigues, also testified for the prosecution in the Tucker slaying, identifying Mancinas and Barragan as two people who were present the night of the shooting.
The defendants will return to court July 27 for further proceedings.
Defense attorneys are expected to ask for separate trials. It was unclear why prosecutors had placed the cases together.
Police alleged three of the defendants - Vega, Carreon-Lopez and Barragan - were members the Angelino Heights gang in southwest Santa Rosa. Esparza was suspected of having ties to the rival Varrio Sureno Locos, who are in a turf war for Southwest Community Park, police said.
Detectives believe Tucker, who was not suspected of any gang involvement, may have been mistaken for a Varrio Sureno Locos member.
Today's ruling came following a three-day preliminary hearing.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 of email@example.com