2 reputed gang members charged in killing of man who answered Los Angeles Craigslist ad

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Two reputed gang members were charged Monday with robbing and killing a man who police say was lured to his death with a Craigslist ad and gunned down in front of his 15-year-old son.

Ryan Roth, 17, and Markell Thomas, 18, were charged with murder, attempted murder and robbery in the Oct. 19 death of Rene Balbuena and the wounding of his son.

Roth, the alleged shooter, was charged as an adult. Both were arrested last week and remained jailed.

Both are reputed members of an Inglewood gang, police said.

At a news conference, family members said they were grateful to investigators for finding Balbuena’s alleged killers.

“My dad is my best friend. He was everything to me and nothing’s going to bring him back,” Sandra Balbuena, 19, said in a shaking voice.

Thanks to the arrests, the alleged killer “isn’t gonna go do more damage to no one,” said Ana Guerrero, the victim’s sister.

Balbuena, 41, answered a Craigslist ad for a $300 Samsung Galaxy and drove with his son to South Los Angeles the night of Oct. 19 to buy it, authorities said.

Balbuena texted the supposed sellers to let them know he was there and minutes later two men came up to the car from behind. Thomas allegedly jumped into the back seat and pointed a gun at Balbuena’s son and both robbers demanded money, Detective Chris Barling said.

Balbuena got out of the car and Roth shot him several times, Barling contended.

Balbuena was declared dead at a hospital. His son was grazed.

The robbers ran off without taking any money, Barling said.

Barling declined to say specifically what led investigators to Roth and Thomas, but he said detectives learned that seven similar holdups — all involving Craigslist ads for cellphones — had occurred in the Baldwin Hills area from Aug. 2 to Oct. 7.

No one was injured in those robberies, he said.

Thomas is suspected of taking part in those holdups, sometimes with other people, and prosecutors could add additional robbery charges, Barling said.

Thomas was arrested Thursday and Roth was arrested the next day. A gun was found in Roth’s backpack, but it wasn’t the murder weapon, which has not been found, Barling said.