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Hearing under way for 3 accused in jail murder, attack

January 11, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

The preliminary hearing for three men accused of murdering one man and attempting to murder another in the Imperial County jail started Monday.

Angel Francisco Ayala, 25, and Armando Valenzuela Leal, 24, both of El Centro, and Gustavo Vega, 24, of Calexico are accused of murdering Ramon Eugene Paleo of El Centro and attempting to murder Genaro Ramirez Ponce, 22, of Imperial.

All five men were inmates in the jail when the incident happened Oct. 22 inside one of the jail modules.

According to county Sheriff's Office officials, jail staffers had let inmates in module Delta stay up past their 10 p.m. curfew that night as a reward for good behavior and keeping the module clean all week. Correctional staff at 1:10 a.m. told the inmates to report to their cells. When staff returned minutes later, they found Paleo and Ponce bleeding from stab wounds. Ponce, who also had been choked, survived but Paleo didn't.


Superior Court Judge Matias Contreras is presiding and will decide whether the case should go to trial when the hearing is complete.

Prosecuting the case are deputy district attorneys Karla Davis and Chris Collins. The defendants' attorneys are Eduardo Rivera for Ayala, Don Levine for Vega and John Breeze for Leal.

If a trial is scheduled, said Davis, prosecutors will seek to convict Vega and Ayala of attempted murder and murder with special circumstances and Leal with murder with special circumstances.

Davis also said prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty in the cases.

Mario Rentería can be reached at 370-8549.

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