A Los Angeles jury deadlocked on nearly all the counts in the case of three suspected Mara Salvatrucha gang members charged in the 2001 rape, kidnapping and killing of a teenage runaway from Whittier.
Despite deliberating for nearly two weeks, the panel on Thursday told a judge they hadn’t reached a unanimous verdict regarding Melvin Sandoval, 38, and Santos Grimaldi, 35, who each faced one count of special circumstance murder along with one count of kidnapping in the killing of 13-year-old Jacqueline Piazza. The teenager ran away from home in May 2001 and ended up in the Westlake area of Los Angeles.
A third defendant, Rogelio Contreras, 40, was acquitted of a kidnapping charge, but jurors deadlocked on his murder count.
The judge asked jurors — who sat through a five-month trial — whether there was anything he could do to help them reach a verdict. He offered, for example, to let prosecutors and defense attorneys make further arguments.
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