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19-year-old Faces Double Murder Charge PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 02 August 2012 04:31

A 19-year-old suspected gang member, after being arrested this past weekend, is facing double murder charges in the deaths of two Panorama City men in early June.

Edwin Lugo was charged this week with at Van Nuys Superior Court with two counts of murder with the special circumstance of multiple murders, and special allegation of discharging a firearm causing death, according to Deputy District Attorney Garrett Dameron with the Hardcore Gang Division.

Lugo is suspected in the murders of Jaime Polino, 26, and Mario Martinez, 35. Both were found shot to death at a home in the 7900 block of Brimfield Avenue in Panorama City.

According to police, both men were found with a gunshot wound to the head.

Martinez and Polino were discovered around 11 p.m. Saturday, June 2, when a passerby peered through an open door at the apartment, saw the bodies and called police.

At the time police had no suspects, and it was unknown if the shooting was gang-related.

A Lucky Break

Lugo was arrested at approximately 2:40 a.m. on Saturday, July 28, after two Los Angeles Police Department officers responded to a report of two men "lurking around a black car" near the intersection of Columbus Avenue and Parthenia Place in North Hills.

"The two officers didn't find the black car, but noticed two men making furtive movements in a white car," said Lt. Paul Vernon of the LAPD's Mission Detective Division. The suspects were detained and then police discovered Lugo was wanted in connection with the June 2 deaths.

Lugo had already escaped capture on July 24, when police served search warrants at relatives' homes looking for him.

"We served search warrants at Lugo's mother's home, his father's home, and the home of a female acquaintance," Vernon explained. "We found some evidence and the girlfriend, whom we arrested for an unrelated charge of intimidating a witness.

"As a result of the search warrants, detectives developed information that pointed to Lugo as a principal in the shooting deaths of Martinez and Polino, whose bodies were found inside Martinez's Brimfield Avenue apartment," Vernon added.

The girlfriend, Linda Contreras, 27, was arrested on suspicion of intimidating a witness in a separate investigation, police said. She is currently not a suspect in the Panorama City slayings.

Lugo's bail was set at $1 million. The other man detained with Lugo was not taken into custody.

"This arrest highlights the results of heads-up police work by some very astute patrol officers," Vernon said. "The officers who were briefed on the information about the double homicide quickly realized that the would-be burglar was in fact, a prime suspect wanted in connection with the heinous murders last month."

Police have not yet revealed the motive behind Martinez' and Polino's deaths.

Blinky Rodriguez, executive director for Communities In Schools Of The San Fernando Valley in North Hills, doesn't think the murders were gang related.

"It is not what we would consider a 'gang-on-gang' incident for the sake of 'banging,'" Rodriguez said. "At least not from the nature of how this was handled.

"Panorama City has its pros and cons, like many communities. I mean, you can walk down the wrong street in Hawaii…. but when you look at it from the context of summer, and with so many young people and testosterone on the streets, even law enforcement would say this has been a pretty successful summer. When something happens we're pretty much on it as far retaliation goes."

What's Next For Lugo?

Vicky Jensen, sociology professor at California State University, Northridge and an expert in violence and homicide, said cases of this type, in general, often don't bode well for defendants.

"What comes next is a combination of decisions. He still has to go to trial before being convicted and sentenced," she said. "If he has prior strikes he could be dealing with a sentence of 25-to-life. If not, murder penalties in California carry life sentences. It all depends on circumstance."

She noted that while support for the death penalty has gone down in California it's still used, particularly in cases dealing with minorities.

"If this happened in Panorama City, you have stereotypes and assumptions that work against him," she said.

Much also depends on his defense. Public defenders tend to broker plea deals. Prosecutors also favor this, due to the high volume of cases they must deal with, Jensen added.

"Prosecutors tend to charge and bail high to plea down," she said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 August 2012 04:38

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