OAKLAND -- Two men accused of kidnapping a woman, killing her and then dumping her body in Rockridge before lighting it on fire must stand trial for special circumstances murder, a judge ruled Thursday.
Salvador Valasco, 23, the woman's boyfriend, and Hector Garcia, 32, a drug dealer, will remain eligible for the death penalty as Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer ruled that a prosecutor had presented enough evidence during a preliminary hearing to move the case against them before a jury trial.
Valasco and Garcia are accused of kidnapping and killing Monica Rodas-Alfaro, 21, because, a witness testified, she refused to give them the name of a man they believed robbed Garcia on a previous occasion.
Rodas-Alfaro's burning body was found by residents at about 5:30 a.m. on July 14, 2011 in the 5700 block of Ivanhoe Road, near an offramp on Highway 24. She had a sweater tied around her head, she was gagged and her arms were bound behind her back. An autopsy revealed she died from blunt trauma to the head and was lit on fire after she died.
Several witnesses said they saw the suspects kidnap Rodas-Alfaro earlier in the morning before she was found during a party at 3131 Nicol Avenue where about half a dozen people were smoking methamphetamine. Valasco also admitted the crimes several days later during a videotaped police interrogation. Garcia refused to speak with police.
One eyewitness to the kidnapping and
Detectives sold the case, in part, by searching Rodas-Alfaro's cellphone records which they retrieved after they identified her body through fingerprints. Those records eventually led police to Pablo Ahumanda, 31, who was an initial suspect.
But after several interviews with police, Ahumanda described the kidnapping at the party, and his story matched that of others who witnessed the crime, Oakland Police Sgt. Steven Nowak testified.
Ahumanda told police and testified this week that he arrived at the party with Rodas-Alfaro and that everything was fine until several minutes after Valasco and Garcia arrived. Ahumanda said he left the converted garage where the party was taking place to go to the bathroom when he overheard a commotion inside.
Upon returning, he said, he saw Valasco standing over and yelling at Rodas-Alfaro who was sitting on a couch. Eventually, a third man walked in and told Rodas-Alfaro to "tell them who it is, you know; we grew up together, we went to school together."
When Rodas-Alfaro refused, Ahumanda testified, Valasco bound her arms behind her back with saran wrap, placed a sweater over her head and led her out of the room.
Attorneys for Valasco and Garcia declined to make an argument before Hymer made his ruling. Deputy district attorney Venus Johnson also did not argue the case before the judge ruled.
Both defendants are due back in court next month.