The state Supreme Court on Thursday refused to review the case against a former Highland Park resident convicted of murdering two men and leaving their bodies in a car he abandoned on a Pasadena street and then carjacking a woman who tried to fight him off because her puppy was in her car.
Manuel Penaloza was convicted in September 2011 of first-degree murder
for the execution-style slayings of two of his friends, Francisco Regalado and
Jurors also convicted Penaloza of grand theft of Regalado's Honda Accord
and committing a carjacking after crashing the victim's vehicle.
In October, a three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court
of Appeal rejected the defense's claim that there was insufficient evidence of
premeditation and deliberation.
"Appellant, who had a prior relationship with the decedents, was bothered by remarks they made. Both decedents were unarmed, and neither had threatened appellant or had presented legally sufficient provocation. Appellant, using a firearm in his bedroom, shot both at close range, execution-style, each one above the eye,'' Associate Justice Patti S. Kitching wrote on behalf of the panel.
Police found the bodies of Regalado and Malta in Regalado's car, which was abandoned on San Rafael Boulevard after the vehicle crashed.
In a letter read on her behalf in court at Penaloza's November 2011 sentencing, the carjacking victim, Heidi Muenzenmayer, wrote that her life was "changed forever'' after she tried to do the right thing by trying to help Penaloza after he crashed the vehicle he was driving.
"He brutally attacked me, left me for dead and kidnapped my dog,'' she
wrote in the letter. "Manuel Penaloza, you will never hurt anyone again.''
During the trial, Muenzenmayer told jurors that the man she described as
having "eyes that were so evil I couldn't imagine'' was going toward her
2004 40th anniversary Ford Mustang, which contained her 12-week-old Australian shepherd puppy. She said she struggled with Penaloza for control of the car and made the choice to stay in the vehicle "because he wasn't getting away with my puppy.''
Penaloza took off in the Mustang, reaching speeds of 55 to 65 mph and
elbowing her in the chest in an effort to dislodge her as she was halfway out
of the vehicle, she testified.
"He kept saying 'Get out, get out.' He kept swerving back and forth. He
kept hitting things to try to throw me out of the car,'' she told jurors, noting that the car struck a brick wall about 300 to 400 feet away from where
the vehicle was taken and that she couldn't hang on any longer.
"The last thing I screamed at him was `Please don't kill my dog,''' she
said, noting that she later learned that the dog had been found safe. She
said she suffered injuries to her face, left arm and right foot--the latter
of which involved her losing a portion of her heel.
Penaloza -- who is serving two consecutive life prison terms without the
possibility of parole plus 62 years and eight months to life--was
extradited from Mexico after authorities got a tip that he was hiding in a
small town in Guerrero, where he was arrested in August 2009.