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Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Killing 5 at Long Beach Homeless Encampment

A 31-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison for killing five people at a Long Beach homeless encampment in 2008, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s announced Thursday.

Five people killed in a Long Beach homeless encampment in 2008 are shown in an undated photo. (Credit: Shown are the five people killed at a Long Beach homeless encampment in 2008. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Five people killed in a Long Beach homeless encampment in 2008 are shown in an undated photo. (Credit: Shown are the five people killed at a Long Beach homeless encampment in 2008. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

In September, Max Eliseo Rafael was found guilty of five counts of murder and one count of kidnapping, along with David Cruz Ponce, 37.

A jury also found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during a kidnapping and murder while the defendants were active participants of a gang.

Ponce was also found guilty of an additional murder and kidnapping count, along with two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, DA officials said.

Ponce and Rafael fatally shot Lorenzo Villicana, Katherine Verdun, Hamid Shraifat, Frederick Neumeier and Vanessa Malaepule on Nov. 1, 2008. All victims lived in a homeless encampment near an off ramp of the 405 Freeway in Long Beach, officials said.

The two men talked about the killings in jail conversations that were recorded, officials said.

Ponce was convicted of kidnapping and killing Tony Bledsoe on March 23, 2009. Jurors have recommended the death penalty for Ponce.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 15, officials said.

Police Chief Jim McDonnell speaks to the media about the 2012 arrests of David Ponce and Max Rafael, in the murders of five people at a homeless encampment in 2008. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Police Chief Jim McDonnell speaks to the media about the 2012 arrests of David Ponce and Max Rafael, in the murders of five people at a homeless encampment in 2008. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)