Alleged MS-13 gang member convicted in 2001 rape, murder of 13-year-old girl

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- An MS-13 gang member has been convicted in the 2001 murder of a 13-year-old Whittier girl.

On June 28, 2001, the naked body of Jacqueline Piazza was found in Elysian Park. She had been shot twice in the head, a statement from the district attorney's office said.

Her murder remained unsolved for nearly a decade, until the Los Angeles Police Department uncovered new information and presented it to the district attorney's office, the statement said. Four men were charged in the crime in 2012.

Prosecutors said the men kidnapped the victim the night before she was found and drove her to a remote area of the park, where they allegedly sexually assaulted and killed her.

On Thursday, a jury found Jorge Palacios, 39, guilty of one count of first-degree murder and one count of kidnapping to commit rape.

Palacios faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. His sentencing is scheduled for April 11.

A separate jury is considering the same charges against the three other men accused in the crime: Rogelio Contreras, 40, Melvin Sandoval, 38, and Santos Grimaldi, 35. Grimaldi's charges include an allegation of personally using a gun.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Grimaldi and Sandoval. Contreras could face life in prison without parole if he is convicted as charged.

Their trial is scheduled to resume Monday.

City News Service contributed to this report.