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Jury reaches guilty verdicts in first MS-13 murder trial

Posted at 4:09 PM, Apr 18, 2022

Five men charged in connection with a series of MS-13 gang-related killings in Santa Maria were found guilty of multiple counts of murder and conspiracy charges on Monday.

"We feel that justice was served, that they did hold them accountable which is the first step in healing for victims’ families," said Ann Bramsen, the lead prosecutor on the case.

The men are among more than a dozen people arrested in 2016 following multiple homicides and attempted homicides in the city between 2013 and 2016.

The case includes nine murder victims and 14 victims who survived.

Because of the large number of defendants, they were split into two trials with the first starting in November 2021 and the second starting in March 2022.

At the conclusion of the trial on Monday, the jury found Juan Carlos Urbina Serrano guilty of nine counts of murder, Marcos Manuel Sanchez Torres and Luis German Mejia Orellana each guilty of seven counts of murder, and Tranquilino Robles Morales and Juan Carlos Lozano Membreno each guilty of six counts of murder. They were also all found guilty of conspiracy and gang-related charges.

"In my opinion, it has a very meaningful impact on our community to have a jury find five defendants guilty of so many murders and so many other victims that were shot and fortunately survived," said Bramsen. "It’s sending a message of accountability and bringing home justice not only for the victim’s family, but for the community to know that law enforcement did their job."

They are scheduled to be sentenced on May 16.

There are three remaining defendants on trial in Santa Barbara. Several of those originally facing charges related to the killings took plea deals before going to trial.