Timothy Joseph McGhee: A northeast Los
Angeles gang leader described by police as a "monster" who boasted in
rap lyrics about his hatred of police and his love of killing.
McGhee, a member of the Toonerville gang, was
sentenced to death in January 2009 for the murder of two rival gang
members and the girlfriend of a third. A jury in 2007 convicted McGhee
of murder in the gang-related shootings of three people between 1997
Jurors also found McGhee guilty of the attempted
murder of four other people, including two LAPD officers caught in a
pre-dawn ambush in Atwater Village as they chased three other
Toonerville gang members.
L.A. gang leader called 'monster,' sentenced to
Timothy McGhee of the Toonerville gang was
convicted of three murders. The judge says he made a sport of 'hunting
human game.' He may have been involved in several more killings.
By Jack Leonard - Los Angeles Times
Janury 10, 2009
Even in a city with more than 150 gang slayings a
year, Timothy Joseph McGhee's murders stood out.
For years, authorities say, McGhee waged a campaign
of terror in the northeastern part of Los Angeles. A shot-caller for a
long-entrenched gang, he hunted rivals but sometimes killed
indiscriminately, boasting in rap lyrics about the pleasure he felt in
He taunted law enforcement and led a sophisticated
ambush that ensnared two Los Angeles Police Department officers in a
barrage of gunfire. While locked up, he incited jail riots and
assaulted guards, responding to one attack in which an officer
survived by saying, "Next time I'll have to stab him."
On Friday, McGhee, once one of the nation's most
sought-after fugitives, sat shackled in orange jailhouse scrubs as
Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry sentenced him to death for the
murder of three people.
Slim, with a shaved head adorned with a tattoo of
an eagle eating a snake, McGhee showed no emotion as the judge said
the 35-year-old treated killing "as some kind of perverse sport, as if
he was hunting human game."
Perry said he accepted defense arguments that
McGhee's father abandoned him as a young boy and that McGhee was
nevertheless a good father to his children and the children of his
girlfriend. But the judge said he believed execution was the
"He is a committed killer and an obvious danger to
society," Perry said.
Police and prosecutors described McGhee as a thrill
killer who was among the most feared members of the Toonerville gang,
which was formed in the 1950s and claims as its turf a largely
middle-class area north of Los Feliz Boulevard between San Fernando
Road and the Los Angeles River.
To convict McGhee, prosecutors relied heavily on
former gang members, including accomplices in the slayings, as well as
other witnesses and ballistic evidence.
Several witnesses were relocated for their safety.
Others had to be ordered to testify.
Once they confronted McGhee in court, some rival
gang members backed away from statements against him that they had
During the death penalty phase of the trial, the
prosecution presented evidence that McGhee was involved in a fourth
murder -- the execution-style killing of a friend, Christina Duran,
who had told police about his involvement in a killing.
Duran's videotaped interview with LAPD detectives
helped convict McGhee of the 2001 murder of Margie Mendoza.
Mendoza, 25, was fatally shot while McGhee and his
associates prowled the streets to avenge the killing of a comrade
hours earlier. Mendoza's boyfriend -- who belonged to a rival gang --
and another woman were wounded in the attack.
Prosecutors said McGhee dropped his girlfriend's
cellphone at the scene and asked Duran to help him retrieve it. A
neighbor who witnessed the assault also recalled that one of the
gunmen had a distinctive tattoo of an eagle eating a snake on his
Jurors also found McGhee guilty in the murders of
Ronnie Martin, 25, a rival gang member who was shot 28 times in 1997,
and Ryan Gonzalez, a 17-year-old member of another gang, who was
killed in 2000.
"The one quality that I have seen in him that I
have not seen before is a quality that is more typical of a serial
killer: They enjoy killing," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Hoon Chun. "He
seemed to enjoy killing."
Defense attorneys H. Clay Jacke II and Franklin
Peters Jr. argued that some witnesses involved in the crimes had tried
to emphasize McGhee's role in order to minimize their own. The
attorneys said they disagreed with the judge's decisions to allow
jurors to see Duran's videotaped interview with police and to remove a
juror during deliberations who favored the defense.
"We're hopeful that this is not the final chapter,"
Peters said after Friday's hearing. McGhee, they said, would appeal.
Police suspect that McGhee took part in or ordered
other slayings, including the September 2000 shooting of a 17-year-old
boy who was sketching a picture at the Los Angeles River and the death
of a homeless man who might have witnessed the shooting.
Prosecutors initially charged McGhee with nine
murders but dropped six counts before trial, citing an unreliable
Authorities said McGhee showed sophisticated
tactical awareness in planning attacks.
In the predawn hours of July 4, 2000, prosecutors
alleged, McGhee used a police radio scanner to track the progress of
LAPD officers Thomas Baker and Carlos Langarica as they chased three
Toonerville members into the heart of the gang's turf in Atwater
Gang members threw a washing machine and a bicycle
into the road, causing the cruiser to swerve toward two gunmen waiting
in the dark. Bullets struck the car. One tore a hole in Baker's pants,
but neither officer was injured.
"I thought that I was going to get shot and
killed," said Langarica, who now teaches in the department's academy.
Prosecutors argued that McGhee was one of the
gunmen. Jurors convicted him of attempted murder of both officers.
Jury deadlocks on sentence
The vote is 10 to 2 in favor of executing a gang
leader for three murders and other crimes
By John Spano - Los Angeles Times
November 10, 2007
A Los Angeles jury deadlocked Friday over
sentencing a notorious street gang boss who had taunted one of his
murder victims before he took his life.
The same jurors two weeks ago convicted Timothy
McGhee, 34, the swaggering, much-feared chief of the Toonerville gang,
of three murders and four attempted murders. They split 10 to 2 in
favor of the death penalty for McGhee; the only alternative was life
in prison without the possibility of parole
Deputy Dist. Atty. Hoon Chun said prosecutors will
retry the penalty phase of McGhee's case. Under California law, the
convictions will stand.
The trial presented a chilling portrayal of life on
gang turf, principally Atwater Village, with testimony of deadly
violence employed casually to protect the organization's narcotics
McGhee was described as a thrill killer who
murdered two rival gang members and the girlfriend of a rival gang
member. Prosecutors used lyrics to rap music that McGhee had composed
for his girlfriend to help prove his guilt.
Chun recited McGhee's lyrics for the jury: "Here I
come, last chance to run. Killer with a gun. Out to have some fun. In
my dreams, I hear screams. Pleasure I feel is so obscene."
Rival gang members were fearful of testifying. One
neighborhood resident was so frightened that her hands shook as she
took the witness stand. Prosecutors played a videotape of a police
interrogation that offered a possible explanation for the pervasive
On the tape, a Toonerville gang associate,
Christina Duran, reluctantly told officers that McGhee was at the
scene of a murder. Duran also urgently and repeatedly stated her fear
Two days later, she was murdered, prosecutors said.
"The feeling I got was that I sort of can
understand why people don't want to get involved. Why should you
volunteer any information? Its almost like there's nothing to gain and
everything to lose," said one of 10 jurors who favored the death
penalty for McGhee.
The juror, a 50-year-old Los Angeles resident who
asked that she not be identified, said the two panelists who voted
against execution felt that McGhee, who grew up without a father,
should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of
"If that's not a case for the harshest penalty,
what would be?" the juror said. "What would it take to tip the scales?
That's the way most of us felt."
Defense attorney Franklin Peters Jr. said Friday
that he was gratified with the result, adding that he is in the
business of "saving lives."
Peters said he would represent McGhee at the
"There were two people who disagreed and who felt
there were some redeeming qualities of the defendant that deserves a
verdict other than death," Peters said. He cited testimony that McGhee
has raised three children and five stepchildren.
During the trial, McGhee wore a dark suit. His hair
had grown out, covering a tattoo of an eagle clutching a snake in the
colors of the Mexican flag on his skull that a witness said helped her
place McGhee at one of the crime scenes.
McGhee dropped his girlfriend's cellphone at a
murder scene -- critical evidence in his conviction for that crime.
He was a fugitive for almost a year, making the
U.S. Marshals Service's most-wanted list. When he was arrested in
Bullhead City, Ariz., police seized a T-shirt imprinted with advice
for eluding police: "Throw a donut."
According to testimony, McGhee taunted one of his
victims, telling him before firing the fatal shots into his skull,
"Die like a man."
Chun had urged jurors to remember that comment when
they considered the defense's pleas for mercy.
Jury convicts L.A. gang leader of three murders
By Greg Krikorian - Los Angeles Times
October 26, 2007
A swaggering street gang leader from Los Angeles
who once was one of the nation's most notorious fugitives was
convicted Thursday of three murders and four attempted murders,
including a 2000 shooting ambush of police.
Timothy Joseph McGhee, the 34-year-old leader of
the long-entrenched Toonerville gang, faces possible execution for the
crimes that authorities say occurred during a four-year rampage that
ended in 2001.
After a week of deliberations, a jury of eight men
and four women found McGhee guilty of murdering Ronnie Martin, 25, a
rival gang member who was shot 27 times in October 1997; Ryan
Gonzales, a 17-year-old member of the rival Rascals gang who was
killed in June 2000; and Marjorie Mendoza, 25, who was fatally shot in
November 2001 when she and her boyfriend drove through an area where
McGhee and his associates were gunning for gang rivals.
According to testimony at trial, Mendoza's
boyfriend, who was wounded in that attack, was a member of a rival
In addition to those murders, McGhee was found
guilty of attempted murder of Mendoza's boyfriend and her girlfriend
in the November 2001 incident.
The jury also convicted McGhee of attempted murder
in the July 4, 2000, ambush of two LAPD officers who were chasing
Toonerville gang members.
In that incident, McGhee was found guilty of firing
on the officers, who were not injured. Three Toonerville members were
found guilty of attempted murder in that car chase, where members of
McGhee's gang shot at pursuing officers and tossed washing machines,
bicycles and other debris at their patrol car to escape.
Once described by police as a "monster" and a
"thrill killer," McGhee led about 200 members of the Toonerville gang,
which was formed in the 1950s and claims a largely middle-class area
north of Los Feliz Boulevard between San Fernando Road and the Los
According to police, McGhee directed his gang like
a military drill instructor, leading them in calisthenics, target
practice and methods for evading police or killing gang rivals.
McGhee, who has spent about one-third of his life
behind bars, was convicted in 1994 of assaulting a peace officer in
San Bernardino County and sentenced to four years in prison. He was
released after serving three years and sent back in 1997 on a parole
After his release in 1999, McGhee was found guilty
of again violating parole and returned to prison in 2000.
Two years later, McGhee was on the run after
authorities wanted him for questioning in connection with the
Appearing on the U.S. Marshals Service list of the
15 most-wanted fugitives, he was arrested in Bullhead City, Ariz.,
after being spotted by someone who saw his photograph in a newspaper.
At the time of his arrest, McGhee smiled at
spectators. Authorities later reported seizing a T-shirt that
exemplified his bravado. It read: "Fugitive. Can't see me."
The jury that convicted McGhee returns to the
courtroom of Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry today to begin the
death penalty phase of the case.
McGhee faces either execution or life without the
possibility of parole.
Citing the pending penalty phase, prosecutor Hoon
Chun declined to make a statement Thursday on the jury's verdicts.
McGhee's attorney, H. Clay Jacke, could not be
reached for comment.
Gang Leader Held in Arizona – Toonerville Member
By Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
February 13, 2003
A northeast Los Angeles gang leader labeled by
authorities as one of the nation’s most-wanted fugitives and sought in
connection with 12 homicides was apprehended Wednesday in Bullhead
City, Ariz., authorities said.
Timothy Joseph McGhee, 29, was captured without
incident about 1 p.m. by more than two dozen officers from the Los
Angeles Police Department, Bullhead City and federal law enforcement,
said LAPD Lt. Horace Frank.
“He was ordered out of the car and onto the ground.
He surrendered without a struggle,” said U.S. Marshals Chief John
Clark. “He did not say a word. One LAPD officer who knows him tried to
engage him in conversation. McGhee just glared at him.”
Over the last five years, the Police Department
says, McGhee has either supervised or pulled the trigger in the
slayings of a dozen gang rivals, witnesses and others unlucky enough
to have crossed his path.
McGhee was on the U.S. Marshals Service list of 15
most-wanted fugitives. But although the Atwater Village gang leader
allegedly is responsible for more killings than Charles Manson, he
hasn’t received much publicity, said Police Det. Andy Teague.
McGhee is expected to appear in the Mojave County
courthouse in Kingman as early as today to begin extradition
proceedings, Clark said. At this point, McGhee has been charged by the
Los Angeles district attorney’s office with one killing.
McGhee has eluded detectives since they linked him
to the homicides last fall. As many as 60 local and federal
investigators have worked to determine his whereabouts.
The break came when a reader of a Mojave Desert
newspaper saw a story about McGhee, told authorities that he was
living in Bullhead City and led them to an apartment there late
Tuesday, Clark said.
A surveillance team observed a man they believed
could have been McGhee but members could not get close enough to
confirm his identity. Surveillance on the apartment led investigators
to a nearby double-wide mobile home.
Authorities were preparing a search warrant for the
home early Wednesday and planning an entry with the Bullhead City SWAT
team when marshals watching the mobile home saw McGhee leave.
He was a passenger in a car driven by a woman,
authorities said. The task force, along with SWAT officers, pulled the
car over, Clark said. The woman “was unaware of McGhee’s true
identity,” Clark said. “She did not know he was wanted. It came as
quite a shock.”
He was captured by officers of the LAPD fugitive
warrants section, a U.S. Marshals Service task force and the Bullhead
City SWAT team.
LAPD detectives say McGhee is the leader of the
Toonerville gang, whose members claim a largely middle-class area that
includes warehouses and $300,000 homes north of Los Feliz Boulevard
between San Fernando Road and the Los Angeles River. The gang, formed
in the late 1950s, also has members in Glendale, Sunland and Tujunga.
McGhee demanded absolute loyalty and led his
charges like a military drill instructor, said Teague, who headed a
team of detectives from the LAPD’s Northeast Division.
McGhee’s confederates were led in calisthenics and
conducted target practice, rehearsed ways to elude police and take out
rival gang members, Teague said.
The gang also posted armed sentries with cellular
phones or walkie-talkies to guard the three main roadways that run in
and out of their turf, according to police.
After an armed robbery July 4, 2000, gang members
tossed debris, including washing machines and bicycles, in the street
to hinder a police pursuit. They also fired numerous shots at
officers, Teague said.
Three Toonerville gang members were found guilty of
attempting to murder LAPD Officers Tom Baker and Carlos Langarica.
McGhee was not charged in that incident.
McGhee was convicted in 1994 of assaulting a peace
officer in San Bernardino County and sentenced to four years in
prison. He was released after serving three years, and sent back in
1997 on a parole violation.
He was released in March 1999, violated parole
again and was returned to prison in February 2000. He was released
again two months later.
While he was on parole and staying with his
grandmother in the San Gabriel Valley, McGhee took police science
classes at Cal Poly Pomona, where detectives believe he was learning
how police conduct investigations.
Each time McGhee was released from prison, police
say, crime increased in the Atwater Village vicinity.
Until recently, detectives said they had difficulty
linking McGhee to the killings because of fear and intimidation of
neighborhood residents, rival gang members and his own associates.
McGhee and fellow gang members would go out hunting for victims in a
way that Teague compared to a big game hunt.
Police believe his killing rampage began in 1997
with the slaying of a rival gang member and two years later, police
say, he was linked to the fatal shooting of a bodyguard for a rap
artist at an Atwater Village music studio.
McGhee and fellow gang members also allegedly
killed 16-year-old Ryan Gonzales in 2000, Teague said.
Gonzales happened to share McGhee’s street name and
he allegedly gunned down the victim as he walked home from a party in
the 3300 block of Silver Lake Boulevard.
Investigators said they believe the motive was that
McGhee didn’t think the neighborhood was big enough for two people
with the same nickname.
Police believe McGhee also fatally shot Marty
Gregory Roybal, 17, who was sketching a picture at the Los Angeles
River on Sept. 14, 2000, and then, seeing that a nearby homeless man —
David Lamont Martin, 33 — might have been a witness, killed him too,
McGhee is suspected of fatally shooting a Pomona
resident, Manuel Apodaca, 21, and critically wounding his pregnant
girlfriend, Nina Guerrero, on Los Feliz Boulevard near the Golden
State Freeway in June 2001. Guerrero suffered severe brain damage, but
was able to give birth.
The next month, McGhee ordered the killing of
Carlos Velasco, a 21-year-old man working at a furniture warehouse on
San Fernando Road, police said. McGhee had passed by and didn’t
recognize the man. He ordered gang subordinates to take care of the
stranger, police said.
Three weeks later, McGhee killed Bryham Robinson,
38; Cheri Wisotsky, 46; and her mother, Mary Ann Wisotsky, 64, police
said. McGhee heard that Cheri Wisotsky told police about drug dealing
at the house of McGhee’s sister in Atwater Village. Authorities allege
that the others were killed because they were witnesses.
In November 2001, McGhee and fellow gang members,
armed with handguns and assault rifles, went looking to kill a victim
in rival territory, police said, in revenge for the slaying of a
Instead, McGhee and his associates fatally shot
Margie Mendoza and wounded her husband while they rode in their SUV in
the 3100 block of Hollydale Drive, police say.
Timothy Joseph McGhee