Local expert reveals insights into gang lives of murder-case suspects
In Madera, there are 80 to 100 white-supremacist gang members who will do anything to maintain their brotherhood, including murder, a Madera gang expert told a court hearing Thursday.
The gangs are cell groups of the prison gang, Peckerwood, gang specialist for the City of Madera, Jason Dilbeck, testified Thursday during the preliminary hearing for murder suspects Raymond Elisarraras, 30, and Michael Williams, 24.
They are charged with murdering 19-year-old Rose Ann Johnston on March 1 and burning her body in her car. They also face several special allegations centering around affiliation with criminal street gangs.
Dilbeck said the way to get ahead in a gang such as the cell group, Small Town Peckerwoods, depends on several things, including the amount of time one is in a gang, and a member’s criminal history. The more crimes, and the more serious those crimes are, the more “respect” the gang member receives, he explained.
When Deputy District Attorney John Baker asked if a member would “get rid of” someone who was causing friction among gang members, Dilbeck said they would.
Division within the gang, he said, could have devastating consequences because fellow gang members are aware of the activities of others.
“They have too much information,” Dilbeck said. “Also, if (the friction between members) wasn’t taken care of, the gang could cease to exist.”
Testimony earlier this week indicated Johnston may have been romantically involved with two of the gang members, one of whom was Williams. This, according to testimony, caused problems between the gang members.
If the gang wanted someone who was causing friction among the members removed, Dilbeck said, there were a number of ways they could accomplish the task.
“You can chose to do a violent assault on that person,” he said, “which would benefit the gang, show that you will not let anything come between them. And, you could kill that person.”
In the gang member’s world, murder is the ultimate proof of allegiance.
This is one possible motive for Johnston’s death. The other was touched upon during testimony Wednesday by an eyewitness to the murder.
Elisarraras, believed to be the creator and leader of the local STP gang, allegedly said he had to kill Johnston because “she was a rat in a high-profile case.”
A link between Elisarraras and convicted murderer Todd Givens was made Wednesday, and again touched upon Thursday. Dilbeck said he is aware of information linking Givens and Elisarraras.
Givens is a member of the prison gang Nazi Lowriders, something a Small Town Peckerwood might aspire to become, Dilbeck said.
According to the Lexicon of Hate, a Texas police central research document, the Nazi Lowriders was formed in 1992 by members of the Peckerwoods. Members are expected to carry out “contract” work for their “elders,” which includes drug deals, drive-by shootings and murder.
“A Peckerwood sometimes has aspirations to go on to the next level,” Dilbeck said, which often involves committing violent crimes. He said the brotherhood was “tight” and becoming a gang member was a “lifelong commitment.”
“You’re talking about blood in, and blood out,” Dilbeck said.
The idea that Johnston’s murder was an act of retaliation for being a “rat in a high-profile case” was mentioned several times, as well as a tie to Givens and a possible link between Givens and a letter. The exact nature of the letter has not been disclosed.
Givens was sentenced to death for his role in killing a man and wife, and burning their bodies.
Dilbeck said he believes both defendants to be gang members for various reasons, including their tattoos. Elisarraras has numerous tattoos, including SWP (Supreme White Power), a swastika, STP, and “God forgives, brother’s don’t.”
Dilbeck explained this to mean “You may receive forgiveness from God, but other members of your gang, your brothers, won’t forgive you.”
“(Elisarraras) is the founder of STP, he’s the leader,” Dilbeck. “He has the most extensive criminal history, was the organizer, and gives the tattoos. he promotes the gang.”
Williams also has several tattoos, including STP and Peckerwood.
“The Small Town Peckerwoods are definitely not just a group of friends,” Baker said. “They are a criminal street gang.”
“Rose Johnston was about being a good little girl,” Baker said in response to the way the victim has been painted as someone who caused trouble. “She went to a party because someone invited her. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
He added that Johnston “was not, in any way, a member of the criminal street gang” but was someone who “had the misfortune of being at a party with the wrong person. Rose Johnston was a great girl.”
Testimony is expected to conclude Friday afternoon, at which time Judge Jennifer Detjen will decide if there is enough evidence to try Williams and Elisarraras for murder and gang related charges.