Bragging about the slaying of 7-Eleven employee and Milpitas resident Mohammad "Moe" Reza Sadeghzadeh via phone calls, text messaging and in an online rap video helped lead police to the victim's accused killers, previously confidential investigative reports state.
On Sept. 8, 2012 at about 2 a.m., Milpitas Police Department detectives say then 17-year-old Menlo Park resident Jerry Coneal III entered 7-Eleven at 1496 N. Milpitas Blvd. with a semi-automatic handgun and wearing a white cloth over his face. Las Vegas resident Warner Travis Jr., then 18, entered with a black mask, and Menlo Park resident Delmon Armstead, then 17, entered with a black hooded sweatshirt pulled over his face, armed with a semi-automatic handgun, police said.
Coneal and Travis then allegedly forced the 67-year-old victim at gunpoint into a back room. About one minute later, a witness vehicle pulled into the 7-Eleven parking lot. Travis emerged from the back room, saw the vehicle and ran back into the back office area, police said. A police department statement of facts says Coneal then shot Sadeghzadeh in the mouth, and all three suspects fled on foot out of the store, but not before stealing the victim's gold necklace and pendant, Swisher Sweets cigarettes and $256 cash, police said.
Police documents assert Coneal, Travis and Armstead are all validated members of the violent Taliban/Yellow Tape criminal street gang.
Cell tower information allegedly placed Armstead and Travis' phone in Menlo Park several hours before the homicide and near 7-Eleven during the homicide, police said. Coneal's cell phone was in the area of the 7-Eleven prior to and during the homicide, the police statement of facts says. Subsequent search warrants also showed text messages between Armstead and Coneal referencing the Milpitas 7-Eleven homicide, according to police.
On Sept. 23, 2012, detectives allegedly intercepted a YouTube video called "211TA187" references to California penal codes for robbery and homicide as well as the Taliban street gang. In the video, authorities say Coneal rapped about a robbery turned homicide.
"Did him in and left the place without a trace. One shot to the mouth now it's a closed case," Coneal allegedly rapped in the video.
After the murder, police say Armstead had numerous conversations about the Milpitas 7-Eleven homicide with Coneal, Travis and other Taliban gang members. Officers eventually intercepted a phone call between Travis and his girlfriend, Bianca Barrow, and discussed Travis' involvement in the homicide, including the fact that Travis was unarmed and wearing a mask during the robbery-homicide, police said.
Travis and Barrow also discussed both Armstead and Coneal and their involvement in the murder, police said. Eventually, evidence was allegedly obtained that identified Barrow as the "getaway" driver during the robbery-homicide, police said.
Travis was arrested at the Menlo Park Police Depart-ment on Dec. 6, while Armstead was arrested at a hotel in Santa Clara the same day. Barrow was arrested at the Menlo Park Police Department on Dec. 9. Coneal had been in custody in San Mateo County on unrelated, undisclosed charges.
Coneal and Arm-stead were 17 years old at the time of the kill-ing, but all are being charged as adults. The four defendants are also being charged as members of a criminal street gang who alleged-ly killed Sadeghzadeh with a firearm for the benefit and furtherance of the gang.
"The criminal gang itself is not on trial. Only the people that are charged in the complaint are on trial," Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Amir Alem told the Milpitas Post on Friday. "They are alleged to have committed the offense for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal street gang."
But Alem, a gang unit prosecutor, would not disclose in which city this Taliban/Yellow Tape gang was located.
"I'm not sure where the gang is 'based' out of it doesn't matter for our purposes," Alem said.
If convicted, all the defendants face 25 years to life in prison.
Until last week, the police investigative reports, known formally as a statement of facts, had been sealed by a judge's order.
On Jan. 27, Superior Court Judge Griffin Bonini ruled to unseal the statement of facts at the request of Coneal's attorney, Alternate Defender Chris Givens, who previously argued those documents should be made public to justify his client's arrest on robbery and murder charges.
Although he initially fought to keep the statement of facts sealed, prosecutor Alem later supported releasing the documents to the public.
"You cannot seal a statement of facts forever," Alem told this newspaper. "It is typically sealed at the beginning of a case because there is still some investigation and its release could affect that investigation. At this point, release of the statement of facts was not going to affect any of the pending investigation."
Milpitas police investigators sought to keep the statement of facts under wraps, in part, to prevent jeopardizing the safety of potential witnesses.
"It is also my belief and experience that violent homicide suspects and their associates are known to intimidate, threaten and possibly harm witnesses," Detective Alex Prince wrote to the district attorney's office in early December. "Additionally, the ongoing investigation may reveal additional crimes and witnesses."
Ultimately, according to Alem, Judge Bonini did not state a reason for unsealing the documents. Alem said the case is still being investigated.
"Police investigation, in my opinion, is always on-going in such cases," Alem added.
Defense attorney Givens could not be reached for comment by press time.
A plea hearing for all defendants in this case is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. April 7 at San Jose Hall of Justice, 190 W. Hedding St., San Jose.
Contact Ian Bauer at email@example.com or 408-262-2454. Visit us on our social media sites at facebook.com/milpitaspost and twitter.com/milpitaspost.