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Gang member laughs at victim's wife before being sentenced to death for Pico Rivera triple murder
BY: Brian Day

California - One of two gang members sentenced to death Friday for a triple slaying at a Pico Rivera pizza parlor four years ago laughed as one of the victim's wives talked about her husband in court, a prosecutor said.

Rudy Ruiz, 34, of Whittier could be heard laughing as Sandra Pasillas gave a statement regarding her husband, Juan Carlos Carrera, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Turk said.

"One of the things that was really quite unfortunate: The emotion that (Pasillas) was conveying was interrupted by audible laughter from Rudy Ruiz," Turk said.

Shortly thereafter, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry sentenced Ruiz and John Perez, 46, of Pico Rivera, to death.

Ruiz and Perez killed three men and wounded seven other people in a mistaken identity attack on June 27, 2009 at Falcone's Pizza in the 9200 block of Slauson Avenue, according to Turk, who prosecuted the case along with Deputy District Attorney Stephen Gunson.

Killed in the indiscriminate attack were cousins Garret Dandini, 25, of Whittier, his cousin Tony Dandini, 39, of Whittier, and Carrera, 39 of La Habra. All three were members of a motorcycle club that raises money for charities called the Old School Riders.

Ruiz and Perez mistook the group for Mongols motorcycle gang members when they opened fire on the crowd, according to testimony.

"These were truly innocent victims," Turk said. "They were good people."

The club met regularly to raise money for charities and delivered toys to needy children on Christmas, Turk said. On the night of the slaying, they were raising money to help a family affected by a fatal house fire, as well as a member of the club who had fallen ill.

"This was a group of people who truly believed in giving to their community," she said.

Turk said she has been inspired by the strength of the victims' family members through the trial process, and their determination to carry on the slain men's mission of helping others.

"Despite all this, when they could be angry and bitter... it just made them stronger and more determined to do good," she said.

A jury in April convicted Perez and Ruiz each of three counts of murder, seven counts of attempted murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. The jury also found true for both men special allegations of multiple murder, that they personally caused great bodily injury, that each man was a principal in the commission of the crime and that the crime was gang-related. The multiple murder and gang allegations made Ruiz and Perez eligible for capital punishment under California law.

At the end of the penalty phase of the trial in May, the jury recommended the killers be put to death.

During an emotional hearing Friday, Helen and Henry "Hank" Dandini spoke of their son, Garret Dandini, and their nephew Tony Dandini, Turk said. Donna Dandini spoke of the loss of her brother, Tony Dandini.

Perez sat quietly through the proceeding, Turk said.

Though Ruiz and Perez belonged to different local street gangs, both are affiliated with the Mexican Mafia, Turk explained. She described Perez as Ruiz's subordinate in the gang hierarchy.

During a preliminary hearing in February of 2011, surviving shooting victim Ricardo Hernandez testified that he was shot in the stomach by Ruiz. When identifying Ruiz in a photographic lineup, he testified that he recognized the shooter, in part, because of his "angry look."

Turk thanked the jurors for the hard work and dedication in the case, and commended the professionalism and respect displayed by the defense attorneys, Laurence Young and Cynthia Legardye, toward the victims' family members.

The defense attorneys, as well as family members of the victims, could not be reached for comment Friday.




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