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Suspects in Quik Stop murder arraigned

Three people arrested in connection with a convenience store clerk's killing were in court Monday.

Ronnie Javier Cavazos, 23, and David Anthony Gonzalez, 21, both of Modesto, and Paul Greg Gonzalez, 15, of Ceres are being tried for the murder of Randeep Singh. Judge Thomas Zeff gave the defendants time to find lawyers before returning to court May 14 at 1:30 p.m.

Singh, 29, was shot to death two months ago during a botched robbery at a Quik Stop market and gas station at 4201 Sisk Road.

In addition to the murder charges, the suspects have been charged with robbery and kidnapping in connection with another incident. Two weeks before the shooting, the group kidnapped a woman during a carjacking and robbed her, police said.

Authorities believe the crimes were committed to benefit the Norteño gang, which could lengthen the suspect's sentences if proved and if they are convicted.

Although the suspects will be tried together, they do not face the same maximum penalty. Cavazos and David Gonzalez could face death. Paul Gonzalez is David's younger brother; because he is a minor, he cannot get the death sentence and faces a maximum of life in prison.

Prosecutors still are deciding whether to pursue the death penalty, Deputy District Attorney Thomas Brennan said.

The charges stem from two incidents: the murder-robbery of Singh on Feb. 16 and the kidnapping of an unidentified woman during a Feb. 3 carjacking.

At 1:35 a.m. Feb. 16, two masked men entered and tried to rob the Quik Stop. They could not open the cash register, so they stole nothing. As they left the store, Cavazos shot and killed Singh, police said. Singh was alone in the store at the time.

Singh had emigrated from Punjab, India, three months before he was killed. Shortly before the murder, Singh's uncle had put the gas station where he worked up for sale in order to finance Singh's dream of being a restaurateur.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at 578-2382 or ehightower@modbee.com.

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