BRIDGETON - Cumberland County grand juries have handed up indictments charging three men - two of whom are alleged gang members- with murder in a pair of unrelated slayings.
One indictment contains charges of murder, hindering, conspiracy and various weapons offenses against two Vineland men who allegedly shot a man to death outside a liquor store in that city on May 14, 2011.
Authorities allege that one of the defendants, Jorge Gonzalez, 20, of the 1800 block of North Delsea Drive, is a "confirmed gang member," although they would not name the gang. The other defendant is Manuel Ortiz, 23, also of the 1800 block of North Delsea Drive. Both defendants in the Cumberland County jail in Bridgeton.
The other indictment supercedes an earlier one handed up against Johnny Ramirez, 29, of the 500 block of West Avenue in Vineland. The new indictment adds the charge of felony murder against Ramirez, who authorities allege was a member of the Latin Kings gang when the fatal shooting occurred in Vineland on Oct. 10, 2009. Ramirez is also under indictment on charges of murder, robbery, aggravated assault and various weapons offenses. Ramirez is also in the Cumberland County jail.
Authorities said 21-year-old John Candelaria was shot in the head in the back seat of a car outside Bubba's Liquor Warehouse in the 1800 block of North Delsea Drive about 6:30 p.m. May 14, 2011.
Police said that when they arrived on the scene, Gonzalez's vehicle and the car in which Candelaria was shot "had fled the area in opposite directions," with Gonzalez heading north on Delsea Drive toward Garden Road.
Police said the car in which Candelaria was shot was eventually recovered by authorities at Inspira Medical Center Vineland. Candelaria was transferred from the medical center to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he died about 10 a.m. the following day.
Gonzalez eventually was taken into custody in Philadelphia. Authorities said they caught up with Ortiz in Connecticut.
In the second incident, Ramirez is charged with allegedly shooting an immigrant father of four children on Oct. 10, 2009.
According to authorities, Ramirez alleged robbed three people at a home on Seventh Street in Vineland. Ramirez shot one of the people, Octaviano Contreras, in the head with a .357-caliber handgun during the holdup on the front porch of the house.
Ramirez tried to get into a cab after the shooting but was denied access to the vehicle by the driver, who called police, authorities said. Ramirez was later found in a house in the 600 block of Montrose Street in Vineland, and the gun was discovered near the shooting scene, police said.
Police said Ramirez, who was known by the aliases "John John" and "King Bliss," admitted to be a member of the Latin Kings street gang. Ramirez had served prison time in 2008 on weapons, aggravated assault, loitering and drug distribution charges.
Friends of Contreras said after the shooting that Contreras' wife and children were in Mexico. They said Ramirez was working construction jobs to earn money to take back to his family.
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