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Trial begins in case of Lodi woman charged with murder

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Posted: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 10:00 pm

Georgina Perez never knew what hit her. She was visiting her grandchildren in Lodi when two bullets tore through the duplex's window.

One bullet, believed to be fired from a 100-year-old gun, hit her in the back of the head, a prosecutor said Tuesday at the start of a murder trial for a woman accused of driving the get-away vehicle. The other bullet shattered another window and was never found.

Perez, a 49-year-old mother of eight, was dead within seconds of falling face-down on the floor. She was "the innocent victim of a gang-related war," San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Mark Ott told the jury.

The shooter, Ott said, was a 15-year-old boy who had been involved in a gang fight two weeks earlier in front of the Swain Drive house. He came back to settle the score, but he fired into the wrong half of the duplex, shooting through closed blinds and never seeing the targets.

Amera Addi

Now the girlfriend of his fellow gang member is on trial for murder. Amera Addi allegedly drove the car that Oct. 4, 2007, night. Then, Ott said, she buried the gun at Lodi Lake and lied repeatedly to police about her involvement.

"But for her involvement, Georgina Perez would be alive today," Ott told the jury during his opening statement. "She's just as guilty of murder."

Addi, who marked her 21st birthday in jail Monday, could spend the rest of her life in prison if convicted of murder. She has pleaded not guilty to the charge, as well as a count of accessory after the fact.

Her attorney, Doug Goss, declined to give his opening statement Tuesday, opting to wait until after the prosecutor has put on his case.

Goss declined to comment outside court, saying only that there are two sides to the story.

The suspected shooter has not been charged or arrested. Prosecutors say they have only Addi's word against him, and legally that is not enough for a conviction. By the time Addi led police to the buried Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver, two months had passed and it was rusted to the point that fingerprints could not be retrieved. The gun was manufactured in the late 1800s, Ott said.

The day of the shooting, Perez had arrived from her home in Visalia about seven hours earlier. She and her daughter went to the Swain Drive home, where her daughter-in-law lived.

The three women were drinking coffee and chatting at the dining room, her daughter-in-law, Gloria Salinas, testified Tuesday. Salinas' three children were in the nearby living room, two of them asleep on a couch.

They heard nothing outside until 12:40 a.m., when two shots came through the window, she testified with the assistance of a Spanish-speaking interpreter. The first shot shattered a glass door behind the women.

The second shot struck Perez.

Everyone in the house dove for the floor when they heard shots, but then Perez did not get back up, Salinas said. She saw blood on Perez's head as someone dialed 9-1-1, then watched as the victim's hand went limp.

Salinas never went back to the home after that night, and said she has since moved from the neighborhood.

The trial, which continues today, centers around Norteno and Sureno gang warfare, Ott told the jury seated in Judge Bernard Garber's courtroom. Gang members focus on respect, and in this case Ott said the gunman was mad because the previous fight had been broken up by the other combatant's mother.

"You're going to learn about what respect means to these gangsters, what pay back means to these gangsters, about what having someone's back means to the gangsters," Ott told the jury of nine women and three men. "It's a world where disrespect must be met with retaliation."

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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