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Homeless man takes 23-year plea deal in 2009 stabbing

Posted: May 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

A Canyon Country man who stabbed to death a fellow transient in 2009 in a Santa Clara riverbed was sentenced to 23 years in prison, authorities said Wednesday.

Julian Gonzales, 40, was sentenced April 29 in San Fernando Superior Court after pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter for killing Raymundo Perez on Oct. 26, 2009.

Gonzales was originally charged with murder and assault with a deadly weapon, but he agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors, who were concerned they may not get a conviction if the case went to trial.

Gonzales stabbed Perez once in the heart with a pocket knife.

Deputies found Perez alive in the river wash near the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Sierra Highway at 8:47 p.m. He died at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital two hours later, according to past reports.

Gonzales was detained and arrested about 400 yards from the murder scene the next morning, while authorities were taking
pictures and collecting evidence, said Detective Steve Lankford of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who helped investigate Perez’s death.

Gonzales was carrying the pocket knife with him, and admitted in an interview that he had killed Perez, Lankford said.
Perez suspected that one of Gonzales’ friends had ratted him out to sheriff’s deputies days earlier, Deputy District Attorney Louis Avila said. The two men had been drinking with a group of people in the wash. But when Gonzales and Perez started to argue,  the two went to an area secluded by heavy brush.

Nobody interviewed by law enforcement claimed to have seen the stabbing, Avila said. A motive for the murder was established with interviews from people who had third-hand knowledge of what happened. Without a witness or a more developed motive for Perez’s killing, prosecutors offered Gonzales a plea deal.

“There is no question other people were around when (the stabbing) occurred,” Avila said. “But it’s the same problem all over: sometimes people are reluctant or unwilling to give up names.”



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