Arrests Made in 2008 Long Beach Homeless Encampment Murders

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Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 3:45 PM

click to enlarge Five people were killed in 2008 at a homeless encampment like this one - CALTRANS
  • CalTrans
  • Five people were killed in 2008 at a homeless encampment like this one
Updated at the bottom: The suspects have been named by the Long Beach Police Department and are being linked to other crimes too.

Originally posted January 18 at 3:45 p.m.

By Taylor Freitas

Long Beach police just announced that they've made an arrests related to the killing of five people in a homeless encampment more than three years ago.

It won't make up for the pain the victims' families have experienced since then, but it could at least bring some peace of mind for the relatives of those killed, identified as Vanessa Malaepule, 34, of Carson; Jose Lorenzo Villicana, 44, of Long Beach; Katherine Lynn Verdun, 24, of Long Beach; Frederick Doyle Neumeier, 53, of Long Beach; and Hamid Shraifat, 41, of Signal Hill.

On Nov. 2, 2008, the five victims were found shot to death in a homeless encampment near Wardlow Road and Santa Fe Avenue, just off the 405 Freeway, according to the Long Beach Police Department.

Long Beach Chief of Police Jim McDonnell will hold a news conference today at 4 p.m. to discuss the details of the long-awaited arrests. Our sister paper OC Weekly has more information about the press conference.

The announcement comes just days after Anaheim police arrested 23-year-old Itzcoatl Ocampo on suspicion of murdering four homeless men in Orange County.

Updated January 19 at 1:05 p.m.: Long Beach police announced they have arrested David Ponce, 31, of Lancaster, and Max Rafael, 25, of Los Angeles, on suspicion of killing the five victims.

Both are known gang members, police said.

The men are each being charged with five counts of murder, one count of kidnapping to commit another crime and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Ponce, who according to police was involved in a dispute with one of the victims over drugs, also faces gun charges, as well as charges for the 2009 kidnapping and murder of Tony Bledsoe of Lancaster.

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