Mountain View Voice

News - November 15, 2013

MV cold-case killer convicted

Gang-affiliated man found guilty of second-degree murder in 2004 shooting

by Nick Veronin

A local man affiliated with a Mountain View affiliate of the Nortenos street gang was convicted on Nov. 7 of shooting and killing 17-year-old Alejandro "Alex" Fernandez in September of 2004.

Giovanni Duarte, 26, was convicted of second degree murder with a gang enhancement and faces a possible sentence of 40 years to life in prison, according to a joint press release from the Mountain View Police Department, the FBI's Safe Streets Task Force, and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. He will likely be sentenced in early 2014.

Another man, 25-year-old Anthony Figueroa, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in a separate trial. He was the driver of the red Lexus the pair used to flee the scene on Sept. 24, 2004 at about 10:30 p.m. Figueroa faces a similar sentence to Duarte's for his role in the killing.

Fernandez was shot and killed on the 500 block of S. Rengstorff Avenue. A self-identified member of the Sureno street gang — a rival of the Nortenos — Fernandez reportedly walked up to the red Lexus that fateful night and was shot multiple times by Duarte, according to Mountain View police.

Given Duarte and Figueroa's association with Varrio Mountain View — or VMV, a Norteno-affiliated gang — police said at the time of the arrest that they believed the shooting was gang-related. "We think the motive was gang-related but a random act of gang violence," that did not specifically target Fernandez, police told the Voice in August 2011.

Though police initially had no suspects in the murder, investigators broke the cold case in 2011, thanks in part to the FBI's Safe Streets Task Force. Operating out of the MVPD's headquarters, the task force re-interviewed dozens of witnesses. The task force also used a grand jury to subpoena witnesses who had previously refused to talk to police and succeeded in making them testify with the threat of perjury charges.

During the trial, the MVPD and the FBI task force were able to convince the jury that Duarte and Figueroa had driven to the S. Rengstorff Avenue area on Sept. 24, 2004, looking for a Sureno gang member with "the sole purpose of initiating a confrontation," the joint press release said. Apparently Fernandez satisfied their criteria.

"I hope the Fernandez family can breath a sigh of relief knowing that Giovanni Duarte was held accountable," said police Chief Scott Vermeer, adding he was proud of the result of the extensive and complex investigation.

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