In late February, the body of Maximiliano Bernal, 21, was discovered in a Sand Canyon ravine in Canyon Country and quickly deemed a homicide. The suspect, David Aladana, who is also 21, turned himself in to authorities at the US Borders and Customs Office in San Ysidro on February 24. One week later, after leading investigators to the place on Sand Canyon Road where the body was discovered. After about a week of further investigation, Aladana was charged with one count of murder. He’s currently being held in lieu of $2 million dollars bail.
Murder is covered under California Penal Code 187 and is described as “the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought.” In order to be charged with murder, a person must have allegedly committed the crime by:
- Using a destructive device or explosive, weapon of mass destruction, ammunition designed to penetrate armor, poison or
- Lying in wait for a victim, or by inflicting torture to their victim or
- Killing someone in a way that it is willful and premeditated or
- Committing a dangerous felony during which another person was killed (even if the killing was unintended)
Murder charges typically fall into three main categories: first degree, second degree and capital murder.
First degree murder is usually charged when any of the above criteria are present. Second degree murder can be charged with a killing was willful but not premeditated. An example of this would be an argument that spirals out of control and results in one party killing another. The defendant may not have originally intended to kill or even assault the other party when the argument began (absence of premeditation), but as the argument got increasingly heated, the defendant reached out and strangled the victim. Finally, capital murder (also referred to as murder under special circumstances) can be charged when a murder occurs for a specific reason. Some of those reasons are:
- Murder for financial gain
- Murdering more than one person
- Murdering a witness to prevent them from testifying
- Murdering a police officer, firefighter, judge, jurist, or an elected official
Murder charges carry the possible penalties of 25-years to life in California state prison for first degree murder. Second degree murder charges carry the possible penalty of 15-years to life, and penalties for capital murder charges include life without the possibility of parole and the death penalty.