Suspects tied to two gang-related Morgan Hill murders in 2020 and 2021 are scheduled for upcoming hearings in Santa Clara County Superior Court, according to authorities.
The deaths of Michael Duran, 18, and Humberto Cossio, 33, do not appear to be directly related, but court files indicate that investigators think some of the suspects and their associates in both cases knew each other, and may have been involved in previous shootings reported in Morgan Hill and San Jose. The suspects in both cases are allegedly involved with the illegal Norteno street gang, which has a prominent presence in South County.
A juvenile suspect in the Cossio murder had also been investigated by Gilroy Police in relation to the January 2021 shooting death of Robert James Marks, according to the court file.
Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Erica Cordero said the two criminal cases stem from a single investigation conducted by two MHPD detectives in coordination with the DA’s office and other agencies. The investigation is ongoing for both murders.
Ricardo Catalan-Murga is set to appear in court this week for his preliminary examination on a charge of criminal conspiracy in relation to the July 19, 2021 shooting death of Cossio in Morgan Hill. Cordero said that hearing likely would not start until Jan. 5.
Catalan-Murga, 18, was allegedly a passenger in a white Nissan Sentra with two juveniles at the time of Cossio’s murder, according to an MHPD investigative report that is part of the case’s court file. The vehicle stopped at the intersection of Spring Avenue and Monterey Road, and one of the occupants shot Cossio in the head while he was walking across the street.
Police received initial reports of the shooting at 9:03pm July 19, 2021, and he was pronounced dead shortly after authorities arrived at 9:15pm, says the court file.
The shooting allegedly followed an altercation between Cossio and a group of young men and juveniles. The group consisted of members of the Norteno gang, and witnesses told police that Cossio had been an associate of the rival Sureno gang, according to the court file.
“Based on my investigation, the persons involved, and the circumstances surrounding the incident I believe that this is a gang murder committed for the benefit of both the VML and Village Boys gang,” says the statement of facts compiled by MHPD Det. Adrian Sapien. VML and Village Boys are considered local “subsets” of the Norteno gang. “I believe that victim Cossio, identified Sureno gang member, was targeted and actively (stalked) by the occupants of the Nissan Sentra prior to his murder.”
Catalan-Murga and the two juveniles were arrested in October 2022 by the Morgan Hill-Gilroy SWAT team. Information about the juvenile cases is not available to the public.
Cossio had been doing laundry with his grandmother at the Teddy Bear Wash & Dry laundromat near the intersection of Monterey Road and Ciolino Avenue just before the shooting, according to the court file. The two had walked to the laundromat from their nearby residence.
Cossio was verbally confronted by the group of suspects—first on foot and then from the Nissan—while walking between his home and the laundromat before he was shot, says the investigative report.
Detectives pieced together images from surveillance camera videos and witness statements to identify the suspects and track the white Nissan before they were arrested more than a year after Cossio’s murder, according to the detailed court file. Police also acquired search warrants for wiretaps of the suspects’ cellular phones and social media accounts during the investigation.
Catalan-Murga’s attorney, April Anne Van Dyke, did not return a phone call requesting comment.
In the May 29, 2020 murder of Michael Duran, suspect Luis Gomez-Guerra, 19, is charged with murder and criminal conspiracy. He is the only person charged so far in that case, and was also arrested by the SWAT team in October 2022.
Gomez-Guerra is scheduled for a plea hearing on Feb. 15.
Duran was attacked while he was driving north on Butterfield Boulevard near Fisher Avenue when he was shot in the head by an occupant of another vehicle, which was also traveling north on Butterfield, according to police. Duran’s girlfriend was a passenger in his vehicle at the time, and suffered minor injuries.
That shooting stems from a dispute several days earlier, on May 25, during an illegal street race at Highway 101 and Bailey Avenue, according to the court file. Gomez-Guerra’s younger brother and Duran got into an altercation, in which Duran allegedly shot the brother. The victim suffered moderate injuries.
Duran also had a contentious history with Gomez-Guerra, as the two had been in a fight years earlier while in high school, according to the investigative report.
Police also think Gomez-Guerra was the shooter in a May 27 incident outside a residence in Morgan Hill, in which he allegedly tried to shoot Duran, the court file says.
“It is evident that Luis Gomez-Guerra explained to other associates that he planned on harming Michael Duran…” says the investigative report compiled by MHPD Det. Ryan Warren.
Gomez-Guerra’s name also appears in the investigative report for Cossio, as a participant in phone conversations recorded by police. Catalan-Murga also appears in the court file for Duran’s murder, as an alleged passenger in the vehicle that shot Duran on Butterfield Boulevard. Catalan-Murga has not been charged in relation to Duran’s murder.
Other adult friends or associates of the suspects also appear in both court files, but have not been charged in relation to either case.
The court files do not indicate that authorities have recovered the murder weapon used in either death.
Gomez-Guerra’s attorney, Curtis Briggs, said the case against his client appears weak, based on the evidence he has seen so far. He also criticized the police for “deceiving” witnesses in order to gain information.
“I was surprised they prosecuted this case against Luis,” Briggs said. “They have a very difficult case and I’m not sure why they charged Luis, other than the connection between him and his brother.”
Cordero said the DA’s office is “confident in the integrity of our investigation.”
“We’re happy to have gotten to a point where we charged both cases, and will continue to investigate,” Cordero added.
I want to say about this case is that the attorney for Luis Gomez Guerra is completely wrong the police did not make me believe on something that is not true. I have facts and a real statement that came out of luis mouth that he wanted to set up duran short after his brother got shot he wanted to take revange and was up for it. And if something happens to me after this i wouldnt be surprised it would be his little gang memebers including his mother on it since she said she felt safe that her son was gang affiliated. like after duran got shot that somebody followed the only witness that was their.