Husband and Gang Member Arrested in Connection with L.A. Cold Case

Seven years after Virginia Alvarez was murdered, charges have finally been filed against her former husband, an alleged gang member and the gang member’s girlfriend.

According to court documents, Gustavo Alvarez hired a member of the notorious Mexican street gang the Avenues to kill his wife. Virginia Alvarez was shot in the head over the Fourth of July weekend in 2003, after stepping out of the couple’s SUV outside of a restaurant. The assailant then fled in a car driven by an accomplice.

Until recently, the case had been unsolved, but a break came two years ago, when Gustavo Alvarez’s brother, Jimmy, informed police that his brother had paid a gang member to commit the murder. Joseph Luis Sepulveda, who went by the nickname “Pee Wee,” had a history with Jimmy Alvarez; the two had committed a robbery together and been arrested for it.

Corroborating Jimmy Alvarez’s story was an aunt with whom Sepulveda lived. She told police that she overheard a conversation between Sepulveda and another, unknown person, in which he said that Gustavo Alvarez was going to pay between $20,000 and $30,000 for the murder of his wife. Sepulveda said during the telephone call that Alvarez had given him the name and location of the restaurant where the couple would be, and that he wanted his wife killed because they were having marital troubles.

In fact, the Alvarezes were in the process of separating when Virginia Alvarez was murdered, and that separation appeared amicable. They had agreed to divide their assets evenly, and Gustavo Alvarez had signed over ownership of their Pico Rivera home, according to court documents. However, Virginia Alvarez soon discovered that her husband had not only been having an affair, but also had assets that she didn’t know about, including a yacht.

Sepulveda’s uncle, Vincent Hernandez, also told police that Sepulveda had admitted to the killing. Sepulveda, 38, now faces capital murder charges, as does his girlfriend, Jennifer Barreau, 29. Barreau is accused of driving the getaway car after the shooting.

Gustavo Alvarez denied knowing Sepulveda after being shown his photograph by detectives in 2008. He was arrested in January after an accomplice agreed to testify against him, and is currently being held without bail at downtown L.A.’s Twin Towers jail.

The Avenues, also known as the Avenidas or the AVEs, is a notorious Mexican street gang with ties to the Mexican mafia. Some Avenues members have faced prosecution by the Federal government and the city of Los Angeles for hate crimes and other violent crimes. In September 2009, a series of raids across Los Angeles attempted to bring new charges against 88 Avenues members or known associates, after approximately 40 suspects were arrested on unrelated charges.

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