MERCED - Rosa Avina was murdered over $750 worth of drugs, Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said Wednesday, and five people have been arrested in connection with her savage death.
Four men have been charged with murder in the Oct. 24 incident where the 27-year-old Livingston woman was bound, gagged and burned alive. Another man is being held on a charge of being an accessory to the crime.
Avina was killed in retaliation for taking marijuana and an "eight-ball" of crystal methamphetamine two weeks before, Pazin said at an afternoon news conference. She was duped into going from Livingston to a house in Turlock where a home-invasion robbery was staged. Avina was bound and taken to South Avenue in Ballico, doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire. Burned beyond recognition, Avina walked nearly a mile before collapsing. She died two days later in a Bay Area burn unit.
"We have lowered the bar on what a life is worth. She met them (attackers) a couple weeks previous and allegedly ripped them off. They (drug traffickers) are ruthless," Pazin said.
Arrested on charges of murder, conspiracy, mayhem, torture and kidnapping were Alvaro Montanez Reyes, 28, of Livingston; Omar Cebrero, 28, of Turlock; Luis A. Valencia, 24, of Delhi; and Urbano M. Ortega, 27, of Livingston. Renulfo M. Ortega, 23, of Livingston is being held as an accessory to murder and on a conspiracy charge and unrelated narcotics warrant, said Deputy Paul Barile, a sheriff's department spokesman. They were characterized as a mid-level drug trafficking organization.
"It (the home invasion) was a ruse to get Rosa out of the area; she was basically kidnapped," Pazin said. "This had nothing to do with her personal life. No one deserves this type of demise. It was the barbaric drug trade in Merced County which has spilled into Stanislaus County and will go full circle to Fresno County. This was a convoluted case and a demanding investigation."