Arraignment delayed for Hawaiian Gardens multiple killing suspect
By Tracy Manzer, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/22/2010 01:14:05 PM PDT
Joseph Mercado during his arraignment for murder at Norwalk Superior Court on Thursday. Mercado is charged with going on a shooting rampage with an assault rifle at his ex-girlfriend’s Hawaiian Gardens home, killing her, her brother and her father and critically injuring her mother. (Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)
LONG BEACH – A 26-year-old man charged with capital murder for a shooting rampage at his ex-girlfriend’s Hawaiian Gardens home that left three people dead and two more injured last May has yet to enter a plea to the charge.
Defendant Joseph Mercado was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning at the Norwalk Superior Court, but the matter was postponed once more as Mercado’s defense team awaits crime scene photographs and autopsy reports.
Court Commission Michael Schuur expressed concern and surprise when he learned the defense was still awaiting basic discovery in the case, which alleges three counts of murder with the special circumstance of multiple murders, a factor that could make Mercado eligible for the death penalty.
The prosecution explained the hold-up was due to reports being compiled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.
"I think it’s ridiculous they can’t generate the reports in a reasonable amount of time," Schuur said.
The arraignment was postponed until Sept. 7, when all the outstanding reports are expected to be completed and turned over to the defense.
Visibly upset by the latest lag in the case was the family of the victims, who have attended all court dates since Mercado’s arrest.
In addition to the murder counts, Mercado is charged with two counts of attempted murder, shooting at an inhabited dwelling, assault on a peace officer with an assault weapon, arson of an inhabited structure, child abuse and first-degree burglary with the special allegation that he personally used a firearm, according to the criminal complaint.
Mercado allegedly broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home in the 21000 block of Devlin Avenue early May 6 and opened fire with an AK-47 rifle.
Killed in the shooting were 23-year-old Serena Tarin, the mother of Mercado’s infant son; Tarin’s 21-year-old brother, Alfredo Tarin Jr.; and their father, Alfredo Tarin Sr.
Two other family members were wounded, including Tarin’s mother, Lucy Tarin, who was critically injured.
Mercado also allegedly tried to set the home ablaze, dousing the interior with gasoline, but failed to get the fire started.
He was shot by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy as Mercado emerged from the house before 4 a.m. Mercado was treated and placed under arrest and is being held without bail, authorities said.
Sheriff’s investigators said the slayings may have stemmed from a custody dispute between Mercado and his former girlfriend.
The suspect, they said, shot a lock off a door at the home and then went from room to room, killing his victims.
Six other family members, including some children, were able to escape the rampage by climbing out an upstairs window and hiding on the roof until deputies arrived, authorities said.
Prosecutors will decide at a later date whether they will seek the death penalty, said Jane Robison, the DA’s spokeswoman.
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