Elizalde: Trial date set for rival gang
members in innocent bystander slaying
Published:  August 07, 2015

Two Santa Paula gang rivals were ordered to trial Monday after a judge ruled there was enough evidence of their alleged involvement in the death of Norma Ramos Elizalde, 39, who was killed by a stray bullet fired outside her High Street home in March 2014.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge David Worley made the ruling at the August 3 preliminary hearing for Mark James Martinez, 32, and Valente Tobias, 23, both described as known Santa Paula gang members.

Elizalde was at the back of her home in the 1200 block of High Street about 1 p.m. doing laundry on the screened porch when she was killed.

Martinez and Tobias are also facing a felony charge of shooting at an inhabited dwelling and special allegations of street terrorism. Martinez is also facing special allegations that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing death and that he killed someone while participating in a street gang.

Tobias is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison and prosecutors could decide to seek the death penalty for Martinez in the incident that stemmed from a confrontation between rival gang members.

According to Santa Paula Police investigators Martinez was driving a vehicle with a passenger near High and 12th streets on March 29, 2014 when he saw Tobias and Ernesto Marron Jr. walking. 

Investigators testified at the hearing that Martinez was a known gang member, and Tobias and Marron were known to be members of a rival gang.

Seeing the two men, Martinez stopped the vehicle and began fighting with Tobias, an altercation that soon turned to firearms when both started shooting at each other.

A bullet fired by Martinez hit Elizalde in the neck and she died at the scene after her young son found her and summoned other family members who called 911 and then tried to revive her.

Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten is expected to make the decision on whether to seek the death penalty before Martinez and Tobias appear in court August 24.

Martinez and Tobias remain in county jail with no bail set for either.

Marron, 21, pleaded guilty March 20 to a felony count of shooting at an inhabited dwelling with a special allegation that he acted in the furtherance of a gang. 

When called upon to testify at Monday’s hearing Marron invoked the Fifth Amendment. 

He also remains in jail and faces up to 12 years in prison when he is sentenced November 12.

With the help of outraged witnesses to the confrontation between the rival gang members and a concentrated investigation, Santa Paula Police were able to arrest the suspects within days of the shooting.

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