Two suspected gang members were charged with special circumstances murder today for allegedly brutally beating a 21-year-old Union City woman to death, dumping her body in an upscale Oakland neighborhood and then setting it on fire. Authorities declined to disclose the motive for the murder of Monica Rodas, who was the mother of a 2-year-old boy, but said suspects Salvador Valasco, 22, and Hector Garcia, 31, apparently were upset with her about something and wanted to send a message to the community not to mess with them.
Rodas’ body was found at about 4:40 a.m. on July 14 in the 5800 block of Ivanhoe Road in Oakland’s Rockridge District, near a state Highway 24 offramp. Valasco and Garcia are both charged with committing a murder during the course of a kidnapping, desecrating human remains and evading police officers.
Garcia is also charged with two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and of having six prior felony convictions, an allegation that could add to his prison sentence if he is convicted. His prior convictions include evading an officer, possession of a firearm by a felon, receiving stolen property, car theft and possession of a controlled substance.
The special circumstances allegations mean that Valasco and Garcia could face the death penalty if they are convicted, but prosecutors will decide later if they want to seek the death penalty. According to a probable cause statement filed in court by Oakland police Sgt. Steve Nowak and Sgt. Sean Fleming, Garcia denied any knowledge of the crime but Valasco admitted his involvement and said he bound Rodas’ hands, gagged her mouth and put a sweater over her.
Valasco said Garcia threatened to burn Rodas with a blowtorch and slapped her, according to the statement. Witnesses said Garcia kicked Rodas while she was bound and gagged, the court document said. Valasco and Garcia then walked Rodas to a car, put her in the trunk and drove her to another location, where she was killed, the police investigators said.
The two men next drove Rodas’ body to Ivanhoe Road, where they dumped and burned it, according to the statement. Police first tried to arrest Valasco and Garcia on Sunday but they fled in separate cars and police decided not to continue chasing them because they did not want to endanger the lives of the suspects, the investigators said.
Officers were able to arrest the suspects on Tuesday after a brief foot chase, according to the statement. Valasco and Garcia were arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court today and are expected to return to court next week to be assigned attorneys and possibly enter pleas.
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