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By Randy Economy
LOS ANGELES – Christopher Lee Savala, a 33-year-old gang member from East Los Angeles, has been convicted in the first-degree murders of two men nearly four years ago.
Deputy District Attorney Sarika Kim of the Hardcore Gang Division said a Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated about an hour and a half before returning the verdicts against Savala.
Benjamin Renteria and Diego Vargas, both 22, were shot to death in March 2008 by Savala, a Bell gang member. The shooting occurred in unincorporated county territory in East Los Angeles. The murders were the subject of several media reports throughout Southern California.
The jury found “true the special circumstances of multiple murders and gang murders, along with gun and gang allegations,” Kim said in a statement.
Savala faces sentencing on Jan. 11 by Judge Ronald S. Coen, who presided over the trial.
“Because the District Attorney’s office opted not to seek the death penalty, the defendant will be sentenced to spend the remainder of his life in state prison,” Kim said.
Authorities said Savala was socializing with four acquaintances in the 1200 block of South Herbert Avenue when the victims, reportedly with a rival Maywood gang, showed up. Words were exchanged, shots were fired and the victims lay mortally wounded.
Savala fled, but was arrested by Sheriff’s deputies a few hours after the shooting. He has remained in custody since then.
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