San Diego

Teen Charged in Death of Escondido Woman, Killed in a Gang Shootout

The minor, whose name we are not using, could be charged as an adult

A 16 year old is in juvenile hall, charged with the murder of an Escondido woman, shot as she drove home from church.

The minor, whose name we are not using, could be charged as an adult.

The prosecution believes the minor was the accomplice of suspected gang member 24-year-old Dionicio Torrez.

Torrez pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder of a rival gang member, and murder of 55-year-old Catherine Kennedy.

On March 7, Escondido police say the two suspects opened fire on a rival gang member who was writing graffiti on an apartment complex on Grand Avenue.

One of those bullets hit Kennedy as she was driving, causing her vehicle to crash into a parked car.

NBC 7 asked Deputy District Attorney Laurie Hauf if the minor could be charged as an adult.

In response, she said, "that will come to light as the nature of the juvenile proceeding continues. That decision will be made at a later time, but we cannot give information at this point in time.”

In March 2000, voters in California approved Proposition 21 in response to criminal street gang activity.

Now under the law, minors over 14-years-old can be tried as adults in some cases.

In the case involving Kennedy, it could mean the minor will be given a fitness hearing. At that hearing, a judge ultimately will decide whether the juvenile can be rehabilitated.

One of the factors considered--the minor's previous history of delinquency.

During the detention hearing in juvenile court, the judge referred to the minor’s past probation violations. That suggests the minor may have a criminal past.

Besides murder, the minor was also charged with other crimes. Because of the nature of the juvenile court proceedings, the deputy district attorney could not tell us what those crimes are.

“The District Attorney continues to make this case a top priority and it is a serious offense for a minor also," Hauf told NBC 7.

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