ANGELES – A South Los Angeles gang member who in 2001 killed a
14-year-old girl with a bullet to the back of the head and in 1998
fatally shot an unarmed man in the face was sentenced to death
Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry said the sentence of death was
“warranted” and called the jury’s death penalty phase verdict
“appropriate” for Steven Cheatham, 32, of Compton. Judge Perry
additionally denied a defense motion for a new trial.
convicted on October 7, 2008 of two counts of first-degree murder
with special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder
to further the activities of a criminal street gang. The defendant
also was convicted of four counts of attempted murder and jurors
found true allegations that Cheatham personally discharged a firearm
during each crime and that the crimes were committed for the benefit
of a criminal street gang.
District Attorney Halim Dhanidina of the Major Crimes Division, who
co-prosecuted the case with Deputy District Attorney Eric Harmon of
the Hardcore Gang Division, called Cheatham a “one-man wrecking
crew” who exhibited an indiscriminate pattern of violence.
On July 1,
2001, victim Elvira Ramirez, 14, and two companions, a 13-year-old
girl and a 15-year-old boy, went to use a pay phone outside the P&G
Market at the corner of Peach Street and Paulson Avenue in Compton.
As the three
stood outside, Cheatham – a documented gang member of the Fruit Town
Piru gang, a Blood gang – approached the boy and asked him his gang
affiliation. When the boy said he was not a gang member, the
defendant shouted an expletive, withdrew a semiautomatic pistol and
The boy was
shot in the leg as he ran away and the 13-year-old girl was shot in
the arm as she attempted to flee. Ramirez, however, froze in place.
As she crouched down and looked away from the defendant, he shot her
in the back of the head, then stood over her and shot her in the
Two and a
half years earlier, on Dec. 20, 1998, Cheatham murdered victim
Phillip Ovalle, 33, at the same location. A one-time member of a
rival street gang, Ovalle had just made a purchase at P&G Market and
was about to ride away on his bike when he was surrounded by
Cheatham and two others. Cheatham fatally shot Ovalle once in the
face. No others were charged in connection with the murder,
defendant also was convicted of the attempted murders of a man and
woman on Oct. 30, 2000. As the two victims stood in an alley, the
defendant approached the male victim and accused him of the shooting
death of a high-ranking Fruit Town Piru member. Cheatham then
proceeded to shoot both victims.