Editor’s note: The following story is the fifth installment of a seven-part series looking at six murders in 2017.
A gang challenge was thrown down, shots were fired and, at the end of it all, a 25-year-old man lay dead on the ground at Begonias Lane Park.
At least, that’s homicide investigators’ best guess at what prompted the Santa Clarita Valley’s fourth homicide of 2017 — the shooting death of Ivan Solis that took place eight months ago in the early morning hours at a Santa Clarita park .
Although friends say Ivan tried to emerge from a violent and checkered past — all the while also struggling to overcome drug addiction — Solis apparently wasn’t able to distance himself from that lifestyle.
Lt. Rodney Moore of the Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau described the confrontation Solis had with his killer as having “some sort of gang nexus.”
“This was a gang-related incident,” Moore told The Signal on Friday. “There was a confrontation.
On July 11, about 5 a.m., the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s 911 center received a report of gunfire near Abelia Road and Via Gardenia, off Soledad Canyon Road, near Shadow Pines, Lt. Doug Mohroff told The Signal shortly after the shooting.
“These were specific gangs that were involved,” Moore said. “But, we never identify gangs by name.”
Ivan Solis was born Aug. 15, 1991. By age 18, Solis found himself behind bars, convicted of grand theft exceeding $400 and sentenced to four years and eight months.
His sentence reflected “an enhancement for street gang activity,” a California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation spokesman told The Signal.
Solis was paroled on Dec. 1, 2013. Once he was out, however, he violated the conditions of his parole four months later and was listed as “absconded” — meaning he’d tried to evade custody, according to CDCR officials — prompting a warrant for his arrest for having tried to elude supervision.
In all, Solis was placed on parole at least eight time, having “absconded” as a parolee at least seven times, according to the CDCR.
The last time prison doors slid open for Ivan Solis was August 31, 2016. Within a year, he was dead.
Friends & family
On the day he was shot, friends and family told reporters how Solis was trying to turn his life around since the birth of his daughter.
They created a Gofundme site with hopes of raising money to cover funeral costs.
After a candlelight vigil in his memory shortly after the shooting, one friend posted on Facebook; “You are one of the best guys I have ever met out here honestly. You always checked up on me and had my back. You will be deeply missed by me that is for sure.”
His sister told reporters that she hoped people would come forward with information about those responsible for his death.
Homicide detectives arrested the first of two suspects in the case about one week after the shooting.
On July 19, detectives arrested 20-year-old Nicholas Colletta, of Saugus, on suspicion of murder. Less than a month later, Jaqueline Arreola, 25, of Newhall, was arrested on suspicion of the same murder shortly before 11:45 a.m. on Aug. 10.
Described in the arrest report as 4-foot-9 and 95 pounds, Arreola was held on $2 million bail. Bail for Colletta was set at more than $3.1 million.
In a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Aug. 14, Colletta and Arreola were charged with one count of murder with the allegation that the crime was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Additionally, Colletta faced one count each of possession of a firearm by a felon with three priors; unlawful possession of ammunition; and carrying a loaded firearm as an active participant in a street gang. Arreola also faces one count of accessory after the fact, knowledge of crime.
The criminal complaint alleged Colletta was convicted in 2016 of carrying an unregistered loaded handgun, possession of a billy — an illegal baton — and carrying a dirk or dagger. He was also alleged to have personally and intentionally discharged a handgun and caused great bodily injury.
The pair shot Solis to death at the park in Saugus after Colletta the alleged gang challenge, according to prosecutors.
After they allegedly shot him, prosecutors claim, the two got into an Uber-like ridesharing vehicle and left the scene.
Once charged, both defendants faced 50 years to life in state prison if convicted.
In the early part of February, Arreola was on her way to trial for murder, scheduled to appear in San Fernando Superior Court to set a date for a preliminary hearing.
Last week, on Feb. 22, however, she pleaded guilty to one count of accessory after the fact, knowledge of crime.
She is scheduled to be sentenced next week March 12.
Her co-accused, Colletta, meanwhile, remains behind bars at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic.
Arrest records reveal Colletta has a history of doing time for weapons convictions.
He was sentenced to four years in state prison on Feb. 9, 2016, after pleading no contest to one count of carrying a loaded handgun that was not registered.
He was sentenced on the same day to two years in Los Angeles County Jail after pleading no contest to possessing a billy and pleading no contest to carrying a dirk or dagger.
He, too, is scheduled to appear in San Fernando Superior Court March 12.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt