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Man accused of San Fernando Valley crime spree is charged with 4 murders, 2 attempted murders

Josh Cain

July 29, 2019

The Press Enterprise

Gerry Dean Zaragoza – accused of a 12-hour rampage that left his dad, a brother, an ex-girlfriend and a bus passenger dead last week – was charged on Monday with four counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of attempted robbery.

Prosecutors included a special-circumstance allegation of multiple murders, making him eligible for the death penalty if convicted of enough charges.

Monday afternoon, Zaragoza made his first court appearance, in Van Nuys Superior Court. When Judge Frank Tavelman asked him if he waived his right to enter a plea at this point, Zaragoza replied, “Yes, your honor.”

So he will return to court on Sept. 3, when Zaragoza can enter his plea.

The 26-year-old, authorities say, shot family members at a Canoga Park apartment, also leaving his mom injured from a gunshot to a hand, then shot dead a woman at a North Hills gas station, also injuring a man, and randomly killed a bus passenger on the Orange Line in Van Nuys before getting arrested at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

During the wave of violence, police say, he tried to also rob a man at an ATM, but the victim had no money and escaped harm.

A possible motive for the crime spree remains unclear.

Those killed included Carlos I. Zaragoza, 56, Carlos Pierre Zaragoza, 33, and Azucena Lepe, 45, the coroner’s office said on Friday. Over the weekend, the coroner’s office identified the bus passenger who was killed: Detwonia Harris, 55, of Reseda.

Saturday evening, there was a vigil at the bus station, at Victory Boulevard and Woodley Avenue in Van Nuys, where Harris was shot while on the bus.

Breann Bonnell, a Van Nuys resident, was at the vigil.

She had known him for 15 years, as he was going through treatment for alcoholism. Before he died, she said, Harris was sober and turning his life around, working in a warehouse.

He recently had reconnected with his young son.

“Whenever he would see my 12-year-old, he’d slip $2 in his pocket,” Bonnell said. “He was just authentic. If you were his friend or you needed help, he’d show you his kind heart.”

She said he was quiet unless he was around his close circle of friends, and she said he was someone who would not sit by if he saw someone in trouble.

“He was not a bystander,” she said. “He was a man of action.”

She said her son was particularly close to Harris: The boy was throwing up and weeping after hearing about the death of their friend.

Detectives said the suspect did not seem to know Harris, with the shooter seemingly picking his final victim at random.

In court on Monday, Zaragoza appeared briefly at around noon in the defendant holding area before he was whisked back into a cell.

A woman who said she was his sister wept in the gallery as two friends consoled her.

Turning to two others in the gallery, she apologized several times for her brother’s violent rampage.

“I’m so sorry my brother did this,” she said, weeping and shaking. “He did this to everyone he loved. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”

A couple of hours later, when Zaragoza’s case was ready, he returned to court, this time to postpone making his plea.

Read the full story here.

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