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Craigslist murder: 2 arrested, charged in South LA fatal shooting

Two suspects were charged in the shooting death of a father who answered a Craigslist ad for a cellphone.
October 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two suspects were arrested and charged in the shooting death of a father who answered a Craigslist ad for a cellphone in South L.A.

Markell Thomas, 18, and Ryan Roth, 17, were charged Monday with murder, attempted murder and robbery with special circumstances, LAPD Det. Chris Barling said.

Rene Balbuena, 41, was shot and killed Oct. 19 in front of his 15-year-old son in the area of 92nd Street and Gramercy Place. Police said two men walked up to their SUV and demanded money. When Balbuena exited the vehicle, Roth opened fire, according to Barling.

"Everybody loved him. There was nobody that didn't like him. He was my best friend," said his daughter, Sandra Balbuena.

The teenage son, who was a passenger in the SUV, was treated for a graze wound in the arm.

Police say both suspects were both part of the same gang, and at least one of them was part of seven similar robberies in the Baldwin Hills area.

"In the robberies in the Baldwin Hills, the Craigslist ads directed the victims to buy a cellphone, and then the buyers were robbed by the suspects with similar descriptions, also with handguns. During those robberies, no one was injured," Barling said.

Police did not reveal what led them to the suspects, only saying Thomas was arrested Thursday and Roth was arrested Friday. The victim's family is grateful the suspects are off the streets.

"We're just really thankful that no one else is going to get hurt, and that this is all going to end," Sandra Balbuena said.

Thomas appeared in court in downtown L.A. Monday afternoon, but his arraignment was postponed until Nov. 12. Roth was expected to appear in court for an arraignment hearing Tuesday. The murder weapon has not been located.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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