Just prior to facing a San Mateo County jury, a defendant in the notorious "Sunny Day" gang murders has pleaded no contest to murder and other charges.
Marvin Jake Ware, 29, of East Palo Alto, took a plea deal on Wednesday, for the shooting death of Lamont Coleman, 21, an East Palo Alto resident, and the attempted murder of two other victims in a shooting on U.S. Highway 101.
Coleman was shot multiple times on Jan. 26, 2013, and was found in the 2200 block of Capitol Avenue near Bell Street at about 9 p.m. His death came just two weeks after the death of Jonathan Alcazar, 24, who was shot and killed in broad daylight on Jan. 14.
Both were killed in a string of retaliation shootings orchestrated by gangs starting in September 2012 and continuing through December 2013.
The crimes stretched from San Francisco to East Palo Alto and involved East Palo Alto's Sac Street and Da Vill street gangs, which allegedly unified against the Taliban, a Menlo Park and East Palo Alto gang. An extensive investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies and the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office resulted in 16 arrests in March 2014. Additional persons were later indicted for perjury.
Ware entered pleas of attempted murder for the Sept. 30, 2012, shootings of Chariece Chew and Marquise Brock on Highway 101. Brock was shot in the head but survived, and Chew was shot in the shoulder. The car they were in had traveled from an East Bay residence and was fired upon by persons in another vehicle, including Ware.
Ware also pleaded no contest to first-degree murder for Coleman's killing. He and others had planned the killing while in jail and passed messages through his girlfriend to others on the outside to carry out the shooting, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.
As part of the plea, Ware also admitted a gang affiliation and prior strike, which adds to his sentence. If he had gone to trial, he would have faced testimony by his girlfriend, Nina Cragg, of Palo Alto, who took a second-degree-murder plea deal on Jan. 9 for her role as a messenger to Ware in the Coleman murder. She faces 15 years to life in prison for her role.
Ware faces 60 years to life in prison. He will return to court on March 9 for sentencing. He remains in county jail without bail.