(L.A.) Vanessa Malaepule, 34, Died at a Freeway Underpass

Case Number: 2008-07663

Los Angeles County is reporting the death of a 34-year-old Samoan female that occurred at a freeway underpass.

The coroner’s office has identified the woman as Vanessa Malaepule of Carson, California.

Manner of Death: Homicide

Cause of Death: Multiple Gunshot Wounds

RIP VANESSA MALAEPULE (December 2, 1973 – November 2, 2008)

The decedent was one of five people mass-murdered by two gang members at a homeless encampment near a Long Beach freeway.

It was only in 2017 — nine years later — that David Cruz Ponce, 36, and Max Eliseo Rafael, 31, were found guilty of first-degree murder for the 2008 shooting deaths of Hamid Shraifat, 41, of Signal Hill; Vanessa Malaepule, 34, of Carson; and Frederick Neumeier, 53, Katherine Verdun, 24, and Lorenzo Villicana, 44, of Long Beach.

Ponce was also convicted of first-degree murder for the March 23, 2009, kidnapping and shooting death of Tony Bledsoe, 18, in the Lancaster area, along with two counts of unlawfully possessing a firearm.

Ponce and Rafael’s killing spree is among the worst mass slayings in the history of Long Beach.

There are two other times in the city’s past where five people have been killed during a single crime:

• On Dec. 4, 1985, five people died in a blaze set at an apartment complex in the 1300 block of Peterson Avenue. Police determined it was arson, but who started the fire remains unsolved.

• On Oct. 28, 1993, five people were shot and killed during a robbery at a home in the 200 block of E. 68th Street. Police arrested a suspected gunman the next year.

In addition to the five murder charges for the homeless encampment slayings, Ponce and Rafael were convicted of kidnapping Shraifat.