Murder of Stephanie Kuhen
The murder of Stephanie Kuhen (October 4, 1991 – September 17, 1995) in Los Angeles, California created significant media attention in the United States and led to crackdowns on Los Angeles street gangs.
Around 1:45 AM on September 17, 1995, along Isabel Street in the Cypress Park neighborhood, a street nicknamed "Avenida . . . assecinos," an incorrectly spelled Spanish phrase meaning "Street of Killers" or "Avenue of the Assassins," members of The Avenues gang shot at a vehicle containing a family returning from a cookout; according to the prosecution the vehicle made a wrong turn into an alley. A 3-year-old girl named Stephanie Kuhen died, and Kuhen's stepfather and younger brother sustained injuries. The perpetrators were arrested and convicted.
On August 1, 1997, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Edward Ferns sentenced 28-year-old Anthony Gabriel Rodriguez, 22-year-old Manuel Rosales, Jr., and 18-year-old Hugo David Gomez to 54 years and eight months to life in state prison. At that point, 17-year-old Augustin Lizama was to be retried. During the sentencing of the three convicted murderers, Margaret Fregoso, Rodriguez's grandmother, defended him and said that people outside of the court speculated that the Kuhen automobile traveled through the neighborhood so one or more occupants could purchase recreational drugs. Robynn Kuhen, the mother of Stephanie Kuhen, said that her family was trying to find a shortcut home and said that Fregoso's statements were not true. The defense in the trial suggested that the Kuhen family knew the layout of the area and would not have found themselves lost in their car. On Friday, August 29, 1997, Lizama agreed to a plea bargain in which he received a conviction for assault.
Rodriguez, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) #K65397, was booked into the CDCR system on September 2, 1997. As of 2014, he is incarcerated at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. Rosales, CDCR#K65037, was booked on August 29, 1997. As of 2014, he is incarcerated at CSP-Los Angeles County. Gomez, CDCR#K65384, was booked on September 2, 1997. As of 2014, he is incarcerated at Pelican Bay State Prison.
Several days after the incident, President of the United States Bill Clinton condemned the killing and said that the United States Federal Government would give money to anti-gang efforts. After the Kuhen incident, Mayor of Los Angeles Richard Riordan asked the Criminal Justice Planning Office (CJPO) to create recommendations regarding gang crime. Several months after the Kuhen incident, the task force's suggestions lead to the creation of the Los Angeles City/County Community Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR) program.
Kuhen was buried in a private ceremony on Monday September 25, 1995. About 100 people attended the ceremony.
George Ramos of the Los Angeles Times reported that many Cypress Park residents were angered by the negative portrayal of their community in the media. Specifically mentioned were concerns that there was a perceived lack of attention to gang issues from the municipal government and their council member, Mike Hernandez; and there was also anger about the Los Angeles Times posting large images of Stephanie Kuhen and her brother on the front page of the newspaper, stating that the media does not do this with ethnic minority children. Ramos said that the editor of the newspaper had asked for the images of the children to be posted before learning that they were white. Ramos also stated that many Cypress Park residents believed that if one is not from Cypress Park, one should be concerned with crime in his or her own neighborhood rather than in Cypress Park.
Allan Parachini of the American Civil Liberties Union said that the media focused attention on the Kuhen case because the victim was white. George Cotliar, a Los Angeles Times managing editor, said that race was not the reason why the media focused attention on the case. Bill Lord, a director at NBC affiliate KNBC, also stated that race was not a factor in why the media covered the Kuhen case. Larry Elder, a politically conservative African-American talk show host, stated that law enforcement ignored the gangs in Cypress Park since most of the residents were Hispanic and Black.
- Stephanie Kuhen at Find a Grave
- "Child killing sparks action against Los Angeles gangs." The Christian Science Monitor. September 25, 1995. Volume 87, Issue 210. Page 4.
- Pelisek, Christine. "Avenues of Death." LA Weekly. July 14, 2005. Retrieved on February 15, 2009.
- "Slaying Still Haunts Cypress Park." Los Angeles Times. July 18, 1999. Retrieved on February 15, 2009.
- "Wrong turn costs a child's life." CNN. September 18, 1995. Retrieved on February 15, 2009.
- "Gang Members Sentenced in ‘Wrong Way’ Shooting." Los Angeles Times. August 2, 1997. Retrieved on February 15, 2009.
- "Three more arrested in toddler's shooting." CNN. September 23, 1995. Retrieved on February 15, 2009.
- "Community Law Enforcement And Recovery (CLEAR)." The Los Angeles Police Department. Accessed August 27, 2008. Retrieved on February 15, 2009.
- Nazario, Sonia, Henry Chu, and Geoffrey Mohan. "Wrong Turn Ends in Deadly Gang Ambush; Violence: Child, 3, dies. Two others are hurt as youths block car's escape from dead-end street and open fire.." Los Angeles Times. September 18, 1995. Part A Metro Desk, Page 1. Retrieved on February 15, 2009.
- Krikorian, Greg. "Last Defendant Sentenced in 'Wrong-Way' Shooting." Los Angeles Times. August 30, 1997. Metro Part B, Page 3. Retrieved on February 15, 2009.
- "Inmate Locator." California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Retrieved on November 10, 2010. "RODRIGUEZ, ANTHONY GABRIEL K65397 41 09/02/1997 Centinela"
- "Inmate Locator." California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Retrieved on November 10, 2010. "ROSALES, MANUEL K65037 36 08/29/1997 Salinas Valley Directions" - While other "Manuel Rosales"s are listed, this one is 36 as of 2010 - matching with being 22 in August 1997. The other "Manuel Rosales"s are older (41, 44, and 56 as of 2010)
- "Inmate Locator." California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Retrieved on November 10, 2010. "GOMEZ, HUGO DAVID K65384 31 09/02/1997 Corcoran"
- Mohan, Geoffrey. "Girl Slain in Alley Ambush Laid to Rest : Stephanie Kuhen Is Eulogized as 'God's Little Angel'; Police Arrest a 5th Suspect in Slaying." Los Angeles Times. September 26, 1995. Retrieved on December 17, 2012.
- Ramos, George. "Getting Past the Anger in Cypress Park." (More information) Los Angeles Times. September 25, 1995. Metro Part B Page 3. Retrieved on February 17, 2013.
- Noble, Kenneth B. "Child Is Slain, and a Neighborhood Voices Its Frustrations." The New York Times. September 22, 1995. Retrieved on February 15, 2009.