California man convicted of killing father, son at 2008 graduation party

California man convicted of killing father, son at 2008 graduation party

A Montebello man was found guilty in the shooting deaths of a father and son at a graduation party in Montebello in 2008.

A jury on Wednesday convicted Joe Dorantes, 38, of the second-degree murder of Juan Garcia, 44, of Perris and Albert Garcia, 12, of Hemet, according to his attorney, Daniel Nardoni, and a court official.

It was Dorantes’ second trial for the June 21, 2008 slayings.

At his first trial in 2017, the jury convicted Dorantes of the attempted murder of two people at the party and a gang member two blocks away. But the jury couldn’t agree on the two murders and the court declared a mistrial.

Two of the attempted murder convictions were later overturned on appeal. Dorantes was only retried for the murders.

Dorantes was one of two shooters at the party, authorities said.

The party was held in a backyard in the 100 block of East Madison Avenue in Montebello. Juan Garcia, his fiancee and his 12-year-old son attended.

There was an earlier fight in front of the house between members of a tagging crew and a Montebello gang. One of the gang members hit Angel Sosa, Dorantes’ nephew, on the head with a bottle, according to court records.

Sosa and his friends left. Someone from their group said, “We will be back.”

A guest who was informally in charge of security at the party told one of the gang members to leave, court records show, but a couple of gang members remained at the party, according to court records.

A man who authorities said was Dorantes later showed up and claimed he was from the gang.

One of the victims told police Dorantes and his companion pointed at the two gang members who were in the backyard, court records show.

Dorantes and the other male then opened fire, authorities said.

One man suffered a graze wound to his hip, a woman was hit in the arm and another guest was grazed by a bullet, according to court records.

But Albert Garcia, who was in the backyard, was shot in the chest. His father, Juan Garcia, was walking towards the fence and was also shot in the chest. Both died in hospital.

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Dorantes was arrested on suspicion of the shootings in 2012.

“This has been a long time coming. We are finally happy the jury got it right this time,” a relative of Albert Garcia said. She asked that her name not be used out of concern for her safety.

“I was disappointed in the outcome,” Nardoni, the defense lawyer, said, adding there was enough for the jury to find reasonable doubt.

“The big issue for the defense is identity,” he said.

Dorantes was never definitely picked out as the shooter by people presented with several photographs, according to Nardoni.

In addition, he said, a witness in an earlier trial said it was someone else who asked for a gang member at the party, pulled out a gun and started shooting.

Nardoni plans to file a motion to dismiss the verdict or request a new trial.

The deputy district attorney on the case could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Dorantes is scheduled for a March 15 sentencing at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles, a court official said. As of Thursday, he was being held without bail at Men’s Central Jail.

Angel Sosa was tried in 2010 as an adult in the case. A jury acquitted him of the two murders and also found him not guilty of assault with a firearm on another person at the party who was wounded.