True Crime | The Valley Killer: In 2014, random shooting spree terrorized Los Angeles

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LOS ANGELES (KABC) — In 2014, a serial killer was on the loose in Los Angeles, but for six months no one knew it.

Alexander Hernandez, the so-called “Valley Killer,” began a random shooting spree on unsuspecting victims March 14, 2014. His attacks left five dead and 11 others wounded – many were shot while in their cars.

Detectives didn’t link the shootings together until much later. Most of the crimes occurred in the San Fernando Valley, but were spread apart and were worked by different divisions of the LAPD.

Here is how his deadly shooting rampage unfolded and how Hernandez was eventually captured.

Alexander Hernandez was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for five counts of murder. He also was convicted of 11 counts of attempted murder.

March 2014: The spree begins

Hernandez shot and killed 35-year-old Sergio Sanchez on March 14 in Sylmar, the first murder in a string of attacks. Sanchez’s body was found in his car on an off-ramp of the 210 Freeway.

Ten days later, Mario Gamboa was shot in the back. The shooter followed his car, leaving it riddled with bullets. The bullet that struck Gamboa, prosecutors say, came from the same handgun as the one that killed Sanchez.

April 2014: Victim survives hail of gunfire

A little more than a month after the second shooting, Louis Valdez was sleeping in his parked car in front of his apartment building when shots rang out all around him. He was shot but he survived. The gunfire came from the same handgun.

May 2014: ‘I’m going to die here’

Julian Archer dropped off his girlfriend after he went to prom with her. It was 4 a.m. when he stopped at a red light and was shot four times.

“One of the last things I remember after the shooting was thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to die here,'” Archer said.

Bullets riddled Archer’s body. Almost a decade later, he still deals with pain and takes medication daily to ease the burning and shaking in his legs. He uses a cane to walk.

Photos: Putting faces to the victims’ names

Sergio Sanchez, 35, was shot and killed March 14, 2014 in Sylmar. His murder was the first in a string of attacks by Alexander Hernandez.

June 2014: An Old West shooting

The Valley Killer’s shooting spree would continue on Father’s Day. Arthur Gerard was taking his two sons and a friend to go fishing at Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley when he noticed he was being followed. When Gerard pulled over to the side of the freeway, he was shot in the arm with a black powder gun, which resembled a revolver from the Old West. Hernandez would not use that gun again.

August 2014: The violence escalates

Hernandez would carry out attacks on five consecutive days.

Nicole De La Mora was shot on her way to work the morning of Aug. 20 near Atwater Village. Hernandez used a shotgun this time to carry out the shooting.

“All of a the sudden I heard a hiss and a pop, and I felt wet, like drenched. And I looked down, and it was blood… I saw the shotgun barrel pointed at me, and I’m like I don’t know who this person is,” she said.

While she was in the hospital, she started talking to LAPD detectives and gave them descriptions of Hernandez’s SUV. During questioning, she remembered that she had approached the killer’s vehicle after getting shot.

“And then it came to me, like a ton of bricks just dropped on me,” she said. “Like ‘Oh my God, are you telling me that wasn’t a dream? I went up to his vehicle, and I was talking to the guy?'”

“I said who are you, what are you doing, why would you do this?”

A map shows where Alexander Hernandez fatally shot his victims. His attacks over the course of six months left five dead and 11 others wounded.

One day after wounding De La Mora, Hernandez fatally shot 48-year-old Gildardo Morales. Morales was on his way to work when he was gunned down while at a stoplight in Pacoima.

“The vehicle was riddled with bullet holes through the back windshield,” LAPD Det. Josh Byers said. “The part that sticks into my mind on that scene for whatever reason is his lunch is right there on the front seat … he woke up that morning, was going to work like a normal day.”

An SUV was seen speeding away from the scene. For Byers, it was clear a shotgun had been used. But who fired that weapon was a complete mystery.

Morales’ brother and sister – and other members of his family – still live in northern L.A. County, not far from where the shooting occurred.

“It’s like a big scar that’s not going to heal. It’s only going to be there forever, especially passing by that street and seeing, like right there, I can just imagine his truck right there,” Morales’ niece Nancy Paredes said.

Pictured is a black powder gun used by Alexander Hernandez in the shooting of Arthur Gerard in June 2014.

They describe Morales as a dignified and serious man who earned their respect. He came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was a teenager to provide a better life for his family.

“I didn’t get to hug him for the last time. I didn’t get to say thank you for everything he provided, for my mom, his siblings, my grandparents, for his nephews, for the entire family itself,” Morales’ niece Mariela Ramirez said.

Morales – like all the other victims – was chosen at random and killed without warning.

The day after Morales’ murder, Hernandez was caught on video opening fire on Felipe and Karen Rueda as they waited at a stop sign. They were on their way home to West Hollywood when they were shot at multiple times inside their truck, but they weren’t struck. A deputy managed to get a partial license plate number, but detectives had still not linked all these shootings together.

The case would break wide open when surveillance footage captured Hernandez shooting at several dogs with a shotgun. Animal cruelty investigators now knew his name, address and had video of his SUV that tied him to the other shootings. But three more people would die the very next day before Hernandez was caught.

Just before 6 a.m. on Aug. 24, Hernandez was in San Fernando when he pulled up next to a family on their way to mass and opened fire. Mariana Franco, 23, was fatally shot and her parents were wounded. Hernandez then killed Michael Planells, 29, in the parking lot of the Sylmar Recreation Center. Minutes later, Hernandez shot and killed Gloria Tovar, 59, as she was sitting in her car in Pacoima. Tovar would be the Valley Killer’s final victim.

Police were soon able to link Hernandez to the shootings based on previous evidence collected at crime scenes. A search warrant was obtained – the address confirmed by an animal cruelty investigator.

A SWAT team surrounded a home in Sylmar where Hernandez was captured – his killing spree was finally over.

While in custody, Hernandez said very little. There was no explanation for the pain he caused and questions remains unanswered.

It took years to bring Hernandez to justice. The case was plagued by delays, including the COVID-19 pandemic. But in 2022, Hernandez was convicted on five counts of murder and many other charges. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Watch “True Crime: The Valley Killer” Saturday at 10:30 p.m. on ABC7 or wherever you stream.

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