Teens Face Murder in Craigslist Robbery That Used Smartphone as Bait
Two teenagers involved in the alleged robbery and murder of a father who had sought to buy a Samsung Galaxy smartphone for his own teen son were both set to be arraigned Nov. 12, authorities said today.
Ryan Roth, 17, and Markell Thomas, 18, were charged this week with murder during the commission of a robbery, attempted murder, second-degree robbery and, for Roth, discharge of a firearm, according to the L.A. County District Attorney's criminal complaint:
It happened about 7:40 p.m. Saturday at 92nd Street and Gramercy Place in South L.A., police said.
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Rene Balbuena, 41, wanted to buy a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone advertised on Craigslist for his 15-year-old, cops said. He had gone to South L.A. in a Mercedes SUV with the teen to make the buy.
Det. Chris Barling told reporters that suspects approached from the rear after Balbuena pulled up:
One of them got in the car, one of them stayed out of the car and they began to rob the Balbuenas. Suspect Markell Thomas entered the rear passenger seat of the Balbuenas' vehicle and pointed a gun at the 15-year-old. Both suspects demanded property. Mr. Balbuena exited the car at one point and suspect Ryan Roth shot Mr. Balbuena. His son was also struck by gunfire. Both suspects then fled the scene on foot.
The father was dead at the scene. The teen was treated for a graze wound. Family members told reporters that the son blames himself for his father's death.
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Neighbors said people had come knocking, looking to buy a phone they saw advertised online in recent days. And police said at least one of the suspects had been involved in seven similar set-up robberies.
Now cops are looking for other possible accomplices.
Roth is too young to face the death penalty, but authorities said Thomas could face it if prosecutors decide to go that route.