New charges link 2018 home-invasion robberies in Santa Rosa, Petaluma
Federal prosecutors have charged a 29-year-old man sitting in a Virginia jail in connection with a series of violent home-invasion robberies in 2018 that left a Santa Rosa man dead and terrorized a group of Petaluma neighbors.
Aaron McArthur, 29, was arraigned via teleconference Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. A six-count indictment outlines attempted robbery and conspiracy charges and alleges McArthur was involved in schemes to steal marijuana from homes in Santa Rosa on Feb. 8 and in Petaluma on March 12.
Fourteen people so far have been charged for their suspected or admitted roles in these invasions. Federal and Sonoma County authorities have said the suspects planned to steal California marijuana and ship it back to the East Coast.
Different groups of intruders kicked down doors and fences, tied up people, pistol-whipped a teen, shot one man in the arm and murdered a Santa Rosa appliance repairman in his home, federal and Sonoma County officials said.
They didn’t find marijuana at any of the properties during the predawn incursions.
McArthur, who also goes by the moniker “Gangsta Boogie,” is the only person so far to be charged in connection with both the February and March home invasions. The crimes occurred just after recreational cannabis sales California began Jan. 1, 2018, and inflamed fears that legalization would bring more violent crime to Northern California’s marijuana growing regions.
Five of the suspected intruders were charged with murdering Jose Luis Torres, 54, a local appliance repairman, in his Santa Rosa home. Demanding marijuana, the intruders shot and killed Torres and they also tied up and threatened his wife and one of his sons. The case is pending trial in Sonoma County Superior Court.
It’s unclear whether authorities believe McArthur was present during the crimes or was somehow involved from afar. Federal prosecutors declined to elaborate on his role Wednesday. The charges combine for a maximum 120-year federal prison term.
Eight other people from Virginia and North Carolina are facing stiff federal prison terms for their admitted roles in the Petaluma break-ins. Two have been sentenced.
A federal judge Wednesday handed a 15-year federal prison term to Jaray Simmons, 29, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for his role in the Petaluma crimes.
Simmons and his co- defendants “agreed to conduct armed home-invasion robberies of the targeted homes and to distribute for a profit on the East Coast the marijuana they were able to steal,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
They barged into a home off Bodega Avenue just outside Petaluma city limits, forced a man and woman into a bathroom, tied them up with duct tape and demanded marijuana and money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office summary of the defendants’ plea agreements.
The victims said they had no pot or money, and some of the intruders broke into a neighboring house, entering through side and front doors. They grabbed a phone away from a woman, then dragged her by the hair into a closet and locked her inside, prosecutors said. Another neighbor who was walking outside was accosted by some of the group, who brought the man into a house, threatened him with a gun and beat him “while asking where the marijuana and money was located.
“The male victim repeated that the defendants were in the wrong house,” the summary states.
In a court filing before Simmons was sentenced, a federal prosecutor described Simmons’ criminal history, including an eight-year, six-month prison stint for his role in a robbery at gunpoint.
“That significant sentence, however, did not deter Simmons from traveling 3,000 miles across the United States to commit the two armed home-invasion robberies in this case,” the prosecutor wrote.
“The Probation Office correctly described Simmons’ conduct as “what people have nightmares about,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jjpressdem.