Jesus "Smiley" Romero-Garcia laid on the front lawn of a residential home in Eureka, bleeding and semi-conscious, for nearly nine hours in the rain before he was found and taken to St. Joseph Hospital. The 14-year-old died of his injuries — three stab wounds to the chest — at around 9:30 on the morning of Dec. 17, 2014. Now, more than a year later, an investigation by the Eureka Police Department, in collaboration with the U.S. Marshal Fugitive Task Force and the Fortuna Police Department, has identified four men alleged to be responsible for Romero-Garcia's death. According to police, two are members of the Sureño gang, one is a Mexican Mafia gang member and the fourth is has a history with the local 18th Street gang, according to police. The Sureño gang, also known as Sur 13, is primarily based in Southern California and is affiliated with the Mexican Mafia.
In today's press conference, EPD Capt. Brian Stephens confirmed that there is a gang presence in Eureka that is strongly linked to the narcotics trade. He revealed the names and photos of the four men charged in the crime as Romero-Garcia's family members sobbed nearby. Neither Stephens nor the district attorney's office could confirm that Romero-Garcia had an affiliation with the Sureños, nor why the gang members chose to kill him and leave the body where it was found, at corner of 15th and McFarland streets. District Attorney Maggie Fleming said that the men arrested for murder in the case — Joseph Daniel Olivo Jr., Joseph Daniel Olivo III, Mario Nunez and Nicholas Leigl — traveled to an unspecified residence in Northeast Eureka and stabbed Romero-Garcia, before one of them transported his body to the other location and left him there. Asked about further details of the case — including which of the four men were alleged to have fatally stabbed the teen, whether Romero-Garcia was a gang member or had a criminal record and if there was a known motive for the slaying — Fleming said those questions would have to wait until trial.
Fleming further declined to comment on whether or not there were other witnesses to the murder. The Eureka Police Department was originally investigating a local Norteño gang member in connection with the killing when they received an anonymous letter that led them to the current suspects.
Capt. Brian Stephens at this morning's press conference.
The suspects appear to have a history of contacts with law enforcement; Olivo Jr. and Nunez were both arrested on felony warrants the same day as Romero-Garcia's death, and are currently being held in state prison on unrelated matters. Joe Daniel Olivo III, 18, was also arrested on that day. Nicholas Kaleoaalii Leigl was arrested in May 2013 on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance for sale. Leigl, now awaiting trial with the four other men, also has a Soundcloud account
with rap songs referencing his Sureño ties and "Humboldt drama."
Leigl is scheduled to be arraigned on a murder charge tomorrow in Humboldt County Superior Court. The other three defendants will have to be transported from an out-of-county jail and state prisons before they can be arraigned locally.
See the full press release from EPD below:
From the Eureka Police Department:
On December 17, 2014, at about 8:10 a.m., a citizen near McFarland and 15th Street, found a male subject,
ultimately identified as 14 year old Jesus Romero-Garcia, lying on the front lawn of a home on 15th Street. The citizen reported Jesus appeared to be sleeping. The citizen tried to get Jesus’s attention but he would only make groaning noises. It was raining at the time and Jesus’s body was wet. The citizen called the Eureka Police Department at approximately 8:22 a.m. for a welfare check. At the time the citizen didn’t notice Jesus had suffered any injuries and none were reported to our Dispatch center.
At approximately 8:34 a.m., the first two EPD Officers arrived on scene to investigate. They contacted Jesus and quickly learned he was bleeding, had been stabbed, and was having labored breathing. The officers summoned medical aid to the scene. Detectives from the Eureka Police Department also responded to the scene to take over the investigation. City Ambulance transported Jesus to St. Joseph Hospital’s emergency room where he was pronounced deceased approximately one hour later. While examining Jesus’ body, investigators discovered three wounds in his upper front thorax area, consistent with being stabbed. They also discovered what appeared to be several defensive knife wounds to his forearm.
Based on the initial facts learned during the investigation of the crime scene where Jesus was found, investigators believed he suffered his mortal wounds at another location and was transported and left somewhere near his final location on 15th
Street. It is believed Jesus was left on or near 15th Street approximately 8 ½ hours prior to being found by the citizen.
On the same day as Jesus’s murder, at approximately 9:00 a.m., the United States Marshall Service Fugitive Task Force, working with the Fortuna Police Department, received information regarding a felony warrant suspect, Joseph Daniel Olivo Jr. Olivo’s warrant was for a parole violation and he was believed to be armed. At approximately 9:45 a.m., Olivo was observed as an occupant in a parked sedan in the Strong’s Creek Plaza in Fortuna. Two officers approached the vehicle and it fled towards Highway 101, resulting in a vehicle pursuit. Olivo eventually pulled to the rear of a residence and surrendered to officers. A second subject, Mario Nunez, who had exited Olivo’s vehicle just prior to the pursuit was located within the Strong’s Creek Plaza and arrested by the Fortuna Police for a felony warrant and possession of narcotics. As a part of the follow-up investigation Olivo’s son, Joe Daniel Olivo III was located and arrested. According to the State Parole, Olivio Jr., and Nunez are connected to the Mexican Mafia as well as the Sureno gang. Olivo III is known to EPD officers as an associate to the local Sur 13 gang. These were significant arrests and would be vital to our homicide investigation.
At the onset of the investigation, Investigators were misled by social media and were seeking a known Norteno gang
member. However, two days after the murder, an alternate theory began to develop based on other sources. On the afternoon of December 19, 2014, Investigators received a letter in the mail from an anonymous source. This anonymous
source gave specific details about what happened and who was involved in the murder of Jesus. This source named the four suspects who were eventually arrested and throughout the investigation, Investigators were able to find supporting evidence for everything stated in the anonymous letter.
This has been an extensive and complex investigation. Even though we had identified the suspects early on in the investigation, our Investigators needed to build a case and collect and process all the relevant evidence and prepare a thorough report that would assist the District Attorney’s Office with prosecution of the suspects. This was done through significant collaboration with the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Federal Probation Department, United States Marshall Service, the local Department of Justice Forensic Lab, the Redding DNA lab, and the San Luis Obispo Probation Department.
During the course of the investigation, Investigators obtained and served 15 search warrants, identified and processed several crime scenes, and collected and processed over 100 pieces of evidence. The result of all this hard work culminated on February 02, 2016 with warrants being issued by the Humboldt County Superior Court for the arrests of the following suspects for PC 187 (a) - Murder:
Joe Olivo Jr, 37 years old,
Validated Mexican Mafia gang member from San Luis Obispo, arrested on February 3rd, while being housed at Pelican Bay Prison. Has contacts in Eureka since 2008.
Editor's Note: This post was updated from a previous version to more accurately reflect the alleged gang affiliations of the four suspects.
Joe Olivo III, 18 years old, Sureno gang member from San Luis Obispo, arrested on February 2nd by the San Luis Obispo Probation Department and Gang Task Force. Has contacts in Eureka starting since 2012.
Mario Nunez, 30 years old, Validated Sureno gang member from Watsonville, arrested while being housed at San Quentin prison. Has contacts in Eureka since 2000.
Nicholas Leigl, 33 years old, History with the 18th Street gang from Eureka, arrested on February 3rd by EPD’s POP team as he arrived at his place of employment.
All the above suspects have ties to the Eureka area and local arrest. The motive behind the murder of Jesus appears to be for the furtherance of the Sureno gang and involved an internal dispute within the gang.
The suspects will all be transported back to Humboldt County at some point in the future and arraigned on the murder charge.
The Eureka Police Department will not stand for gang activity in the City of Eureka, especially activity that is associated with violence. If you’re involved in this type of activity we will eventually find you and bring you to justice. The citizens of Eureka and those who come to our city for a multitude of reasons deserve to live and travel in peace and safety.