Indio Man Found Guilty of Killing Cousin in Ambush Slaying

City News Service

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – An Indio man who gunned down his cousin in an ambush outside an apartment complex because he felt that the victim had been disrespectful was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder and other charges.

After three days of deliberations, a Riverside jury found 26-year-old Raymond Hernandez guilty of the 2014 fatal attack on 36-year-old Manuel “Lito” Hernandez of Indio

Along with the murder count, jurors convicted Hernandez of recklessly discharging a firearm, as well as found true a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, and convicted him of sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.

However, they acquitted the defendant of two counts of attempted murder.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mark Johnson scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 3 at the Riverside Hall of Justice and ordered that Hernandez remain held without bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside.

The defendant is expected to receive life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to a trial brief filed by Deputy District Attorney Shea Strand, the defendant became incensed with his cousin on the night of April 10, 2014, after the older man told him to leave an outdoor party, where Raymond Hernandez had engaged in fisticuffs with an attendee over a minor dispute.

The party was being held in the courtyard of Manuel Hernandez’s mother’s apartment building in the 83-300 block of Avenue 44, court papers stated. Raymond Hernandez and his 16-year-old brother, Joseph Anthony Hernandez, were invited there after leaving a separate get-together on King Street.

During the second party, the defendant tried to obtain alcoholic beverages for himself and his younger brother, but wasn’t accommodated and grew angry. He challenged a man to a fight, and the individual obliged but proceeded to quickly gain the upper hand, prompting Manuel Hernandez to intervene and order his two younger cousins to leave, according to the brief.

The defendant was furious and told his younger brother, “You can’t trust anyone, especially family,” the brief said, adding that Raymond Hernandez immediately plotted to exact revenge on the victim.

The defendant went to his pickup truck and obtained a sawed-off .22- caliber rifle, then waited until he spotted Manuel Hernandez going to his vehicle shortly after midnight on April 11, according to the prosecution.

While Joseph Hernandez watched nearby, his older sibling crept up behind the victim until reaching a distance of within four feet, and then leveled the rifle at the man’s head, the brief said.

Unaware that two party-goers were walking to their pickup truck in the parking lot and looking in his direction, Raymond Hernandez  fired a single shot into his cousin’s right temple, causing his baseball cap to fly off and him to collapse onto his back, mortally wounded, according to court papers.

The two witnesses jumped into their pickup and sped away, later alleging that Raymond Hernandez and his younger brother pursued them in the defendant’s vehicle, firing multiple rounds from the .22 while chasing the witnesses on streets through Indio.

The two men escaped uninjured and reported what had allegedly happened to police. Jurors did not convict Hernandez of the alleged attack.

Manuel Hernandez’s mother discovered his lifeless body when she returned home that night.

Over the ensuing four days, detectives pieced together the chain of events, culminating in the arrests of Raymond and Joseph Hernandez. The latter’s case was disposed in juvenile court, and no records were available regarding his sentence.

Raymond Hernandez had no documented prior felony convictions.

Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.

CNS-04-12-2022 18:09

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