Escapee’s alleged partner begins trial in ’05 murder 

Falling in love transformed Francisco Rodriquez from a Norteño street soldier to a law-abiding family man, but it couldn’t protect him from a Sureño bullet, prosecutors said Thursday as the trial began for one of his alleged killers.

Faustino Ayala, 23, is charged with murder with gang enhancements for his alleged role in Rodriguez’s

July 12, 2005, killing in Redwood City. Prosecutors say Ayala was the driver in the execution-style slaying, and Josue Orozco, then 14, was the shooter. Orozco, the youngest person ever to be charged as an adult in San Mateo County, escaped his juvenile facility Feb. 14 and is still at large.

During opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Josh Stauffer said the victim was working in his garage with his brother-in-law and a friend when Ayala drove up beside him, his car packed with five Sureños. As Rodriquez began limping as fast ashe could on his deformed leg, Orozco allegedly ran out of Ayala’s car and shot the fleeing man in the back of the head.

"He was killed feet away from where his wife and children were upstairs enjoying an air conditioner he had just installed," Stauffer said.

Stauffer said Rodriquez, who lived two blocks away from the alleged Sureño house on Poplar Avenue, had given up the gang life for his wife, Maria.

"By all accounts, he was living a law-abiding life. Unfortunately, in the gang life, once a Norteño, always a target," Stauffer said.

Ayala’s defense attorney, Vincent O’Malley, told jurors he did not deny, condone or even understand his client’s lifestyle. But the jury’s task is to simply judge the events the day of the killing, he said. Ultimately, they will have to decide whether Ayala knew he was driving his fellow gang members to murder Rodriguez or whether he simply planned to get into a fight.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

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