Judge Refuses to Release Alleged Quadruple-Killer on His Own Recognizance

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A judge refused today to release an alleged quadruple-killer from jail on his own recognizance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Defense attorney Christopher C. Chaney filed court papers last month asking Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Paul Fidler for an order releasing Jose “Joe” Luis Saenz “on his own recognizance release or release on appropriate financial or non-financial conditions,” writing in a declaration that the 46-year-old inmate “is now in recovery from the COVID-19 disease” that he contracted while in county jail.

“He relates that, `This is one of the most serious illnesses that he has ever suffered.’ He believes that this is the second time he has contracted the virus because the circumstances in the symptoms of the second episode were similar to earlier symptoms that he had exhibited … He believes that he is in serious danger of losing his life should he contract it another time,” Chaney wrote in the declaration, in which he noted that¬†¬†717 inmates were reported to be in quarantine the day the motion was filed late last month.

The judge also denied — but without prejudice — a defense motion to allow Saenz to be tried separately on the murder charge stemming from a 2008 killing, saying that the defense attorney can file a declaration further specifying the grounds for the request.

Saenz is awaiting trial for the July 25, 1998, killings of rival gang members Josue Hernandez and Leonardo Ponce who were murdered in Los Angeles’ Eastside in what authorities believe was payback for an attack on an associate, along with the Aug. 5, 1998, kidnapping, rape, sodomy and murder of Sigreda Fernandez, the mother of his child. Authorities said he allegedly feared she would turn him into authorities.

He is also charged with the Oct. 5, 2008, killing of Oscar Torres, along with one count of attempted murder in 2008.

Authorities said they have video of Saenz killing Torres in October 2008 in Whittier over a $600,000 drug debt.

The murder charges include the special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder of a witness and murder during rape, kidnapping or sodomy.

Prosecutors opted under prior Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s administration not to seek the death penalty against Saenz.

Upon being informed during an April 2016 court hearing of the decision, Saenz responded, “I want them to seek death.”

The judge told Saenz then that it was up to the prosecution to decide what punishment to seek.

“You can’t force them to seek death,” the judge told him.

Saenz could now face a life prison term without the possibility of parole if he is convicted as charged.

Saenz — who was on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list for more than two years — was arrested by Mexican agents as he left his apartment in Guadalajara, Mexico, in November 2012, the FBI said after he was taken into custody.

Known by such aliases as “Zapp,” “Peanut Joe Smiley” and “Honeycutt,” Saenz arrived under guard at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said.

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