Photo Credit: Christian Pineda (AKA Luis Ventura), Rossel Hernandez, Wendy Cerritos, Marco Hernandez and Abraham Cortez. (Pasadena PD)/ Via FOXLA
In the early morning hours of July 22, 2023, tragedy struck on the scenic Angeles Crest Highway in Pasadena, California. 32-year-old Jessie Munoz of Los Angeles lost his life during a robbery while he was inside a vehicle with a female companion. The Pasadena Police Department launched a comprehensive investigation into the incident. Eventually the investigation led to the arrest and charging of five individuals. Each facing serious charges related to the crime for murder and robbery.
The Defendants and Their Charges
The five individuals charged in connection with the Angeles Crest Highway murder and robbery case are as follows:
Luis Ventura (DOB 04/23/99): Charged with one count of Penal Code 187 (Murder) and two counts of Penal Code 211 (Robbery).
- Actions Taken: Luis Ventura is charged with murder and robbery based on allegations that he took property that did not belong to him while using force during the commission of the crime. The evidence suggests that Ventura played a central role in the robbery that ultimately led to the tragic death of Jessie Munoz.
Marco Antonio Hernandez (DOB 09/21/04): Charged with one count of Penal Code 187 (Murder) and two counts of Penal Code 211 (Robbery).
- Actions Taken: Marco Antonio Hernandez faces murder and robbery charges stemming from his alleged involvement in the robbery that occurred on Angeles Crest Highway. The evidence suggests that he actively participated in the theft of property and used force during the commission of the crime.
Abraham Ernesto Alvarenga Cortez (DOB 06/16/02): Charged with one count of Penal Code 187 (Murder) and two counts of Penal Code 211 (Robbery).
- Actions Taken: Abraham Ernesto Alvarenga Cortez is charged with murder and robbery, with an additional allegation that he personally used a handgun during the commission of the offense. This suggests that he played a direct role in the robbery and used force, possibly with the firearm, which resulted in the death of Jessie Munoz.
Wendy Cerritos (20 years old): Charged with two counts of Penal Code 211 (Robbery) with handgun allegations.
- Actions Taken: Wendy Cerritos faces robbery charges, specifically related to incidents of robbery that occurred on Angeles Crest Highway in the week leading up to Jessie Munoz’s murder. The allegations involve her use of a handgun during these robberies.
Rossel Josue Hernandez (21 years old): Charged with two counts of Penal Code 211 (Robbery) with handgun allegations.
- Actions Taken: Rossel Josue Hernandez is also charged with robbery, similarly related to incidents that transpired on Angeles Crest Highway before the murder. The charges against him involve the use of a handgun during these robberies.
Understanding Penal Code 211 (Robbery)
Penal Code 211 defines robbery in California as a theft involving force or fear. To prove a defendant’s guilt in a robbery case, the following elements must be established:
- The defendant took property that did not belong to them.
- The property was taken from another person’s possession and immediate presence.
- The property was taken against the other person’s will.
- The defendant used force or fear to take the property or to prevent resistance.
- The defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.
Robbery convictions can lead to substantial prison sentences, with first-degree robbery, in particular, carrying sentences of up to nine years. Other factors, such as the use of a firearm, can significantly increase penalties.
Understanding Penal Code 187 (Murder)
Penal Code 187 defines murder in California as the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought. Murder charges can result from premeditated acts or occur during dangerous felonies under the Felony-Murder Rule.
For a murder conviction under Penal Code 187(a), the prosecution must establish the following elements:
- Committing an act that caused a death.
- Having a legal duty to help a person who died and failing to perform that duty.
- Causing the person’s death.
- Having malice aforethought (express or implied) and no lawful excuse.
Murder convictions can lead to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, fines, and potential classification under California’s “Three Strikes” system.
Defenses Against Murder and Robbery Charges
Defendants facing murder and robbery charges may assert various defenses, such as:
- The killing was accidental.
- The act was in self-defense or defense of another.
- Mistaken identity.
- Lack of capacity due to insanity.
These defenses highlight the importance of legal representation and the need to protect one’s rights when facing such serious charges.
The court carefully considered the evidence provided by the Pasadena Police Department’s Robbery/Homicide Unit, the LAPD. The proper use of evidence, led to the charges filed against each of these individuals.
This case is a grim reminder of the devastating consequences of murder and robbery. The incident also underscores the importance of a fair and thorough legal process. As the legal proceedings continue, the accused will have the opportunity to defend themselves. The court will ultimately determine their guilt or innocence based on the presented evidence and the principles of justice.
If you or someone you know faces such charges, it is crucial to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney. Consult with an experienced attorney to navigate this challenging legal terrain effectively. Contact The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi at (310) 448-1529 or contact us online.