Jurors deliberate fate of gang member accused of three murders

MURRIETA – Jurors today began deliberating the fate of a San Jacinto gang member accused of fatally shooting three men and trying to kill another because of their affiliations.
Raymond Alex Barrera, 27, could face the death penalty if convicted of three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and special circumstance allegations of lying in wait, killing for the benefit of a criminal street gang and taking multiple lives.
The jury, which got the case after nearly a month of testimony, is scheduled to resume deliberations Monday morning at the Southwest Justice Center.
Barrera allegedly carried out the killings in the summer of 2013, picking most of his targets as they were walking along San Jacinto streets.
Prosecutors allege the defendant, an admitted member of San Ja, the San Jacinto Valley’s oldest street gang, was with his girlfriend, now-24-year-old Tawpash Paillia Durnin, during the slayings. Durnin pleaded guilty last year to voluntary manslaughter and is slated to be sentenced in November.
Prosecutors allege that Barrera was obsessed with eliminating rivals, as well as so-called “drop outs” who had deserted San Ja and “snitches,” who had assisted law enforcement. Barrera’s own reputation had been marred because of prior cooperation with police, according to the prosecution’s trial brief.
The defendant’s first alleged victim was Juan “Spooks” Perez, who was attacked while walking with a friend, identified only as “W.S.,” as they headed to the El Toro Market on Main Street to purchase beer on the night of June 27, 2013.
Prosecutors allege Barrera identified Perez as a dropout and ran up behind the young man, shooting him in the back of the neck, then attempting to shoot W.S., who managed to hide underneath a car to protect himself.
Perez died at the scene, and Barrera allegedly made his getaway in Durnin’s vehicle, with her at the wheel.
The defendant’s next target was a supposed police informant, Jose “Flaco” Venegas, gunned down on June 30, 2013, according to the prosecution. Barrera allegedly employed a ruse, involving Durnin, to get Venegas to a deserted location on the Soboba Indian Reservation, where he was shot twice and his nude body dumped in a ravine.
The third and final murder victim was Ruben “Toker” Zavala, a member of “Hemet 13,” which had been engaged in turf wars with San Ja.
Prosecutors allege that Barrera, Durnin, then-17-year-old Robert Anthony Hernandez and another individual, identified in court papers only as “confidential informant,” were driving in Durnin’s Dodge Caravan on the night of July 8, 2013, when they encountered Zavala crossing the 300 block of West First Street.
Barrera allegedly shouted, “State your name and what you bang?” But according to the prosecution’s brief, the young man tried to ignore the defendant, who allegedly jumped out of the van with Hernandez and chased the victim down, fatally shooting him.
Sheriff’s detectives spent several months investigating the murders, initially tying Barrera to only one, though with the help of the confidential informant, Durnin and others, all of the killings were eventually solved, according to prosecutors.
Hernandez is awaiting trial for murder in juvenile court.
According to court records, Barrera has served time in state prison. His prior convictions include illegal possession of a firearm and obstructing a law enforcement officer.
He’s being held without bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

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