Alleged Co-Conspirator in Gang Killings Appointed Attorney

MURRIETA – One of three reputed gang members accused in a summer killing spree throughout the San Jacinto Valley was appointed an attorney today.

Robert Anthony Hernandez, 18, is accused of conspiring with 23-year-old Raymond Alex Barrera and a 20-year-old woman, Tawpash Paillia Durnin, in a fatal shooting on July 8.

Hernandez appeared before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Judith Clark, who appointed him a public defender and scheduled his arraignment for Jan. 7.

The defendant, who was transported from a Los Angeles County juvenile detention facility on Tuesday, is being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

Durnin is being held at the same facility without bail, while Barrera is locked up without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

The trio are all reputed members of the San Jacinto First Street gang, more commonly known as San Ja, with the ”J” pronounced like an ”H.” Durnin is also a member of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Barrera and Durnin are each charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and special circumstance allegations of killing for the benefit of a criminal street gang, which could make them eligible for the death penalty if they’re convicted.

Hernandez is charged with murder and a killing for the benefit of a gang.

Sheriff’s investigators allege the killings occurred on June 27, July 8 and July 13. In the first instance, 41-year-old Juan Alfonso Perez of San Jacinto was gunned down near the intersection of Fifth and Hewitt streets.

In the July 8 shooting, 34-year-old Ruben Lee Zavala of San Jacinto was fatally shot in the 300 block of West First Street, while five days later, 32- year-old Jose Ramon Venegas of San Jacinto was found dead in a deserted location two miles southeast of the Oaks Recreation Area on the Soboba Indian Reservation.

All of the men were shot to death with handguns, and all were either former or current gang members, according to prosecutors.

Possible motives for the killings were not disclosed.

According to court records, Barrera is a convicted felon who has served time for at least one prior offense, while Durnin has several drug-related cases pending adjudication.

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