Orlando Salas, 16, stands to be sworn in Thursday while his father, Isidoro Salas, left, and Defense Attorney Anna Aragon listen. Salas pleaded guilty to murder charges. (Staff photo: Tony Bullocks)
By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A 16-year-old murder defendant has told prosecutors his brother killed a 10-year-old boy, according to statements made in court on Thursday. As a result, officials said Orlando Salas will be charged as a juvenile in the slaying of Carlos Perez; he’ll be placed in a boys’ school under the custody of the Children Youth and Families Department until he is 21, when he will be paroled, officials said.
Andrea Reeb, 9th Judicial District Court deputy chief prosecutor, said Orlando Salas identified his brother, Demetrio Salas, as the person who shot Carlos Perez in September. She said Orlando Salas has recounted for investigators statements his brother allegedly made about shooting nine bullets into the window of Perez’ bedroom.
No one spoke on behalf of Demetrio Salas at Thursday’s hearing.
Reeb said Orlando Salas’ confession combined with other witness interviews made it clear he was involved in planning the shooting but was not at the Perez home when it occurred, resulting in the lesser charges.
Prior to the plea agreement, Salas and two older brothers — Demetrio and Edward Salas — were charged with first-degree murder. All have been held in custody since Sept. 16. Noe Torres also is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the case. Torres has not been apprehended; law-enforcement officers believe he is hiding in Mexico.
Under the plea agreement, Orlando Salas has agreed to testify against his brothers and others in the case, District Attorney Matt Chandler said.
Carlos Perez, 10, was shot while sleeping in his bed early on Sept. 15. He died about 16 hours later.
Officials have said the boy’s older brother was the target of the shooter, having been in an argument with Orlando Salas at school.
Orlando Salas’ statements have led to the arrests of four people on charges of tampering with evidence.
One other suspect has not yet been identified pending arrest, Chandler said.
Reeb told the judge Orlando Salas’ brother became upset when he told him about an argument he had earlier in the day at school with Ruben Perez, the victim’s older brother. Orlando Salas told investigators his brother Demetrio told him to get a gun from the garage, saying they were going on a mission.
Investigators believe Demetrio Salas met up with Edward Salas and Noe Torres outside the Perez apartment, where the shooting occurred.
After the shooting, Orlando Salas told investigators he and the others burned the clothing they were wearing and hid the gun.
Chandler said Edward Salas, 21, and Demetrio Salas, 20, will be tried together by a joint jury in August.
“There is no such thing as justice when a 10-year-old has been murdered,” Chandler said. “There’s nothing that could bring justice to someone who has lost a child to such a senseless act,” he said.