Key Witness Is Slain After Murder Trial

His body is found in Beaumont. He had helped convict fellow gangsters of a drive-by.

By Lance Pugmire
Times Staff Writer

April 6, 2006

A man who provided critical testimony that led to the murder convictions of two fellow gang members was found dead of gunshot wounds, his body dumped alongside a Beaumont road, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.

The body of Melquiades Jose Rojas, 18, of San Bernardino was found Tuesday off Oak Valley Parkway, more than two months after he testified that James Fuentes and Melecio Reyes were on the same San Bernardino street where Francisco Ferreira, 25, was killed in a drive-by shooting in June 2003.

“Beaumont police identified [Rojas], backtracked and found out he had recently testified in a homicide case,” said Cheryl Kersey, a prosecutor in the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office hard-core-criminal and gang unit.

Kersey said San Bernardino police were helping Beaumont police in the investigation, seeking to establish whether Rojas’ death was connected to the trial. Kersey declined to say whether that link had already been established.

In court, Rojas testified that he was a member of the West Side Verdugo street gang — the same one to which prosecutors said Reyes and Fuentes belonged. Rojas testified Jan. 31 that Reyes and Fuentes visited his home, across the street from the Ferreira home in the 200 block of 24th Street, in the minutes before he heard gunshots.

Another neighbor testified she saw Ferreira collapse as he tried to retreat into his home after the shooting.

Reyes and Fuentes were convicted of murder in San Bernardino County Superior Court on March 23. Their sentencing is scheduled for April 14.

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1 Comment for “Key Witness Is Slain After Murder Trial”

  1. rr3t

    the couch over a document

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