MS-13 Member Sentenced to Life in Prison for Kidnapping, Rape, Murder of 13-Year-Old Whittier Girl

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Jorge Palacios, right, sits with lawyer Lawrence Forbes during closing arguments in his trial on March 1, 2018. (Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Jorge Palacios, right, sits with lawyer Lawrence Forbes during closing arguments in his trial on March 1, 2018. (Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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A judge on Friday sentenced an MS-13 gang member to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 25 years, for the 2001 kidnapping, rape and murder of a 13-year-old Whittier girl, authorities said.

A jury convicted Jorge Palacios, 41, in March of first-degree murder and kidnapping to commit another crime, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in a written statement. Jurors also found true the special allegations of murder during the commission of a rape, lewd acts on a child and kidnapping.

Three other men are awaiting trial for their alleged roles in the killing of Jacqueline Piazza, whose body was discovered in Elysian Park on June 28, 2001. A previous trial ended with a hung jury.

The victim’s body was nude when discovered and she had been shot twice in the head, prosectors said.

The brutal killing remained unsolved for more than a decade before investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division, working in conjunction with detectives from the Gang and Narcotics Division, received new information in the case. An indictment against the four suspects was unsealed in June of 2012.

“During the trial, prosecutors said the defendants kidnapped the victim the night before she was found and drove her to a remote area of (a) park, where they sexually assaulted and killed her,” according to the D.A’s. office statement.

Co-defendants Rogelio Contreras, 41; Melvin Sandoval, 40; and Santos Grimaldi, 36, are scheduled to appear in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Aug. 23 for a pretrial conference in their case.

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