INDIO, Calif. - A Desert Hot Springs gang member was given the death sentence this morning after being convicted of killing a U.S. Marine and a teenager.
Emilio Manuel Avalos, 35, was convicted in September of the Dec. 19, 2001, slaying of 20-year-old Marine Cpl. Henry Lozano and the Dec. 21, 1994, shooting death of 17-year-old Jahi Collins.
At the end of the penalty phase of the trial in November, the jury recommended the death penalty, and Riverside Superior Court Judge James S.
Hawkins today uphold the recommendation.
Avalos was also convicted of the attempted murder of Collins' friend, Bobby Wilson, who was left paralyzed in the 1994 shooting at Wardman Park in
Desert Hot Springs.
During closing arguments in the penalty phase of trial, Deputy District Attorney Pete Nolan wiped tears from his eyes while asking jurors to picture what Lozano's last moments were like. He said Avalos killed Lozano as he left
the Desert Hot Springs residence of his girlfriend, whom Avalos had dated.
Nolan said there would never be closure for the victims' families and friends.
"Jahi and Henry are not statistics. These crimes were absolutely devastating to these families," he said.
Defense attorney David Macher, in his unsuccessful effort to secure a
recommendation of life in prison, said that his client's worst acts "are not
his entire life." He asked the jurors to feel sympathy not just for the
victims' families, but also for Avalos' family.
Avalos and other gang members shot at Collins and Wilson as they sat in a car in the park after they met two girls.
A judge consolidated the Lozano and Collins murder cases in 2007. The law allows combining separate crimes when they are of the same type or have
similar attributes, according to John Hall of the Riverside County District
Attorney's Office. He said both shootings reflected a distinctive method of
operation and produced evidence pointing to Avalos.