Jesus Catalan pleaded guilty in Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles to involuntary manslaughter in the killing of transgender Paulina Ibarra in April 2009. Catalan received 12 years in a plea agreement, meaning he will be eligible for parole in 10 years, according to LAPD Lt. Wes Buhrmester who has been involved in the case from the beginning.
Buhrmester said Ibarra’s family was in the courtroom as the sentence was handed down. Noting that he could not speak for the prosecutor in the case, Buhrmester explained that the reason for the plea instead of pursuing a murder charge was because the District Attorney must look at being able to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – to a jury of 12 people that Catalan deserved to be convicted of murder. However, since Catalan had apparently been injured during a struggle with Ibarra, that Ibarra and Catalan knew each other and she was not killed during the course of a felony (like robbery), it would have very hard to prove.
Catalan pled guilty to 192 PC, involuntary manslaughter. Manslaughter is defined in the penal code as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” This means no premeditation was proven. Involuntary manslaughter (192(b) PC) is defined as committed “…in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to felony; or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection. This subdivision shall not apply to acts committed in the driving of a vehicle.”
Paulina Ibarra, a 24-year-old transgender woman, was found stabbed to death in her apartment at 939 N.
Mariposa Avenue in Hollywood on August 28, 2009. Soon thereafter, with the help of the Los Angeles-area transgender community, the LAPD named Jesus Catalan as a person of interest and subsequently, a murder suspect.
At the time, I reported:
Buhrmester described the crime this way: neighbors heard fighting in what is considered a rowdy apartment complex and just as someone was complaining to the manager, another resident called 911 at 7:57 to report a woman screaming.
Police were dispatched at 7:58pm. In the meantime, the building manager and a resident went to Ibarra’s apartment, pushed in the door and found her lying on the floor gravely wounded. Police arrived roughly at the same time – six minutes after being dispatched. They found no pulse but called for paramedics and more units. Paramedics declared Ibarra dead at the scene.
Buhrmester said that neighbors and members of the transgender community gathered at the scene and offered information – including about Catalan, who apparently knew Ibarra.
“That turned the tide of the investigation quite dramatically,” Buhrmester told me on Sept. 15, adding that “we were honored” that the transgender community came forward after a history of mistrust.
Buhrmester said detectives do not now think the murder was a hate crime because it appears the victim knew her attacker…..
The Royal Court of West Hollywood served as a liaison with the LAPD. “Transgender community members are tired of being ignored by the media when one of us is killed. We are people. We are someone’s family. We matter, too,” Queen Victoria Ortega, head of The Royal Court, said in November 2009. Ortega also said that Catalan has reportedly “assaulted other trans-women.”
Interestingly, it was LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, then the chief of detectives, who fast-tracked the DNA analysis of DNA found at the scene that placed Catalan in Ibarra’s apartment.
In an interesting turn of events, Catalan – who is Puerto Rican, not Mexican – was deported from Mexico as an illegal alien after a scuffle broke out July 3, 2010 in his hotel room in Tijuana. He was detained by San Diego police at the border after they matched his finger prints to those on the national murder warrant. The LAPD picked him up and held him for trial.
After Catalan’s arrest, Buhrmester said: “It was gratifying and humbling that we could cause Catalan to be brought to justice.”