A self-proclaimed homeless gang member convicted of murdering two car salesmen and two other men within a seven-month period in East Los Angeles was sentenced to death Friday.
A Los Angeles jury convicted Angel Mendoza, 39, in October of four counts of murder, three counts of possession of a firearm by a felon and multiple special allegations.
The death penalty was recommended by the jury and affirmed by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen.
A parole officer who completed the pre-sentencing investigation said Mendoza showed no remorse for the killings and remained troubled by mental illness. Mendoza had previously served several years in prison for robbery and attempted robbery convictions, among others.
Mendoza told investigators that he had been using the drugs PCP and crack cocaine since he was a teenager. He said he stole items over and over again to earn money to pay for his $100-a-day drug-and-alcohol habit, supplementing his spoils with money from an occasional construction day-job, according to a sentencing report.
In October 2007, Mendoza shot and killed a drug-dealing bandit-taxi driver who refused to sell drugs on credit. Mendoza later told a friend that the driver “didn’t want to do a favor for me in my 'hood.”
In April 2008, Mendoza fatally shot a man who was sitting outside his own house. Police alleged that Mendoza believed the individual was a gang member, but never offered the man a chance to affirm or deny the assumption before opening fire.
A month earlier, another of Mendoza's victims, Arturo Saldana, had been called into work at the last minute on a day he was supposed to have off for rare vacation.
Mendoza confessed to Whittier police about his involvement in the murders in October 2008, according to a sentencing report. In the auto dealership incident, however, he admitted only to pressuring the actual shooter.
Saldana's daughter, Stacey, told authorities that she was almost there that day at the auto dealership too. She regularly helped her dad fill out DMV paperwork after a sale. But she ended up going with her brother to run errands instead.
“He had the biggest smile on his face, considering the fact that he requested that day off,” Saldana recalled of her father that morning. “I never fully understood why he was denied.”
She said his murder took away from her family “the glue that stuck us all together.”
“I struggle with the everyday normal activities because I know now that bad things can happen to good people,” she said.
Mendoza was charged along with six co-defendants. Four have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. One case led to a hung jury and will be retried soon. The final case remains ongoing.