A Ventura County jury convicted a gang member of murder Thursday for fatally shooting a Santa Paula woman at her own home with a stray bullet intended for a rival gang member, authorities said.
Mark James Martinez, 37, of Santa Paula was found guilty of first-degree murder for the March 29, 2014, shooting death of 39-year-old Norma Elizalde, the Ventura County District Attorney’s office said in a written statement. The jury also found true the special allegations that Martinez personally fired the gun that killed Elizalde, that the crime was gang related and that Martinez was an active member of a gang.
He could face life in state prison without the possibility of parole when he returns to Ventura County Superior Court for sentencing on April 29, Ventura County Senior Deputy District Attorney Catherine Voelker said.
Martinez got into a dispute with two rival gang members on a sidewalk outside of Elizalde’s High Street home, officials said. Elizalde was doing laundry on her back porch at the time, the Ventura County Star reported.
“After verbally challenging the rival gang members, Martinez invoked the name of his gang, got out of his car and attacked them,” according to the District Attorney’s Office statement. “During an exchange of gunfire, one of the bullets from Martinez’s gun went through Ms. Elizalde’s home and struck her in the neck, killing her.”
The two men involved in the confrontation with Martinez have already been convicted of crimes for their roles in the shooting.
Ernesto Marron Jr., 25, pleaded guilty in January to a count of negligently discharging a firearm, along with the special allegation of personally using a firearm and that the crime was gang related, Voelker said. He fired a gun during the violent encounter with Martinez.
Marron, who struck a deal with the prosecution for leniency in his case in exchange for truthful testimony in Martinez’s trial, has yet to be sentenced, she said.
Valente Tobias, 26, pleaded guilty in 2015 to shooting at an inhabited dwelling, along with the special allegation that the crime was gang-related, according to Voelker. He also admitted to having a previous “strike” conviction under California’s three strikes law.
Tobias received an 11-year prison sentence in November of 2015, Voelker added.
An online fund set up to benefit Elizalde’s family at www.gofundme.com/7xq9l8 in the wake of the killing raised nearly $13,000 from about 200 donors. She is survived by her husband, as well as two sons, who were 13 and 16 when she was killed, a twin sister and two brothers.