By Anthony Saude
Ontario – A 25-year-old man was convicted for his role in the 2011 torture and burning death of Maria Banuelos.
Johnny Hernandez was found guilty of First Degree Murder of Maria Banuelos by a Rancho Cucamonga jury. The jury finding was also in favor for the prosecution charge that the special circumstance her murder was committed during the course or commission of Mayhem. They added one count of Torture, one count of Mayhem and one count of Arson Causing Death.
Investigators arrested four other suspects linked to the brutal attack: 45-year-old Hector Meza of Yucca Valley, 27-year-old Genese Ramirez of Banning, 25-year-old Robert Zapata of San Bernardino, and 30-year-old Johnathan Zuniga of Rancho Cucamonga.
On Oct. 22, 2011, officers from the Ontario Police Department arrived at an apartment complex and found residents administering aid to 34-year-old Banuelos, who at the time was still on fire.
Banuelos identified Hector Meza and three others as her attackers at the scene. While in route to the hospital in the ambulance she spoke her last dying words: “Hector Meza set me on fire. He is abusive and obsessive.”
Banuelos was rushed to a hospital but two days later she succumbed to her injuries and died.
Only hours after the attack officers arrested Meza on suspicion of attempted murder.
According to Deputy District Attorney Kent Williams, who prosecuted the case, it was later determined by the coroner that the victim had been hit on the head three times with something consistent with a metal bar prior to being set on fire.
Meza was sentenced Jan. 4, 2017 to Life in State Prison Without the Possibility of Parole.
Zuniga was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison March 24, 2017.
Ramirez is due back in court later this week for a status hearing.
Zapata is scheduled to appear in court for a Pre-Trial Hearing June 29.
Hernandez faces life in state prison without the possibility of parole when sentenced Aug. 31, 2018.
This case was investigated by the Ontario Police Department.