2 arraigned on murder charges for Government Hill slaying
Last updated at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26
A teenager once considered a person of interest in a recent homicide now faces charges of first- and second-degree murder in the case, as well as first-degree robbery.
Sean Simeonoff, 18, was arraigned in court on Wednesday for the death of 17-year-old Jesus Oropeza. Oropeza was found unresponsive near the corner of Vine Street and Birch Street, in Government Hill, just after midnight Saturday, according to police statements issued over the weekend. He had been shot in the back and was declared dead at a nearby hospital, the agency wrote.
Simeonoff and 18-year-old Kenya Berezkin were initially identified by police on Tuesday as persons of interest in the case, meaning police believed they had information helpful to the investigation. Simeonoff was taken into custody later that night and questioned. Online court records show a warrant for Simeonoff’s arrest was filed by Anchorage police detective James Trull Monday.
According to the affidavit, after the shooting, police spoke with two witnesses and obtained video footage of the incident.
As Trull describes the footage in the court document, the video shows two males waiting at the location where the shooting occurred. Oropeza can be seen walking up to the two and talking to them. At some point during the conversation, one of the males pulls out a gun and points it at Oropeza, who then gets down on his stomach while the second male searches him, Trull wrote.
“After going through Oropeza’s clothing the suspect holding the gun then walks behind Oropeza and shoots him one time in the back,” the affidavit states. “It also appears that that suspect attempts to shoot Oropeza a second time but that for an unknown reason the gun does not fire.”
One of the witnesses told police he saw the trio from a block away, and while the witness did not hear the gunshot, he saw Oropeza on the ground. He yelled at the two suspects and was allegedly shot at three times as the suspects fled, Trull wrote. The witness was not injured.
The second witness told police she drove her friends, Berezkin and Simeonoff, to that area that night and parked nearby while they went to meet with someone named “Zues,” the affidavit explains. The two teens had asked for a ride, so they could buy marijuana, she said. After waiting for about 15 minutes, she said the pair came running back to her vehicle. Simeonoff indicated he had a handgun and Berezkin showed he had gotten the marijuana, and they left the area.
Trull stated in his affidavit that Oropeza’s father confirmed his son was growing marijuana in his bedroom and sold marijuana.
The next morning the witness driver said she heard Simeonoff say he’d used the handgun during the deal the night before, and when she checked the news on her phone, she saw there had been a shooting death in the area where she had driven the two teens, Trull wrote. She went to police on Monday because she realized her two friends had been involved.
“[The witness] said that she felt bad that someone had died that was her age over weed and wanted to tell about what happened,” Trull wrote. “She also said that she couldn’t live with this fact and also wanted the family to know what had happened.”
The witness agreed to call Berezkin so police could record a conversation with him, Trull wrote.
“During the conversation Berezkin made no denials and told [her] words to the effect, to delete all of her texts and deny that we were there,” he added.
The prosecutor for the case requested bail of $250,000 cash appearance and $250,000 cash performance with a requirement for a third-party custodian.
“Our offices view the defendant robbed and executed a 17-year-old victim in the street in a dispute over marijuana, then shot to the back while the victim was lying on the ground,” the prosecutor told the judge at Simeonoff’s arraignment.
Oropeza’s aunt made a statement at the arraignment. Other family members were also present in the courtroom.
“On behalf of our family, we just want to express we’re very devastated by the loss of our nephew, JJ,” Lorena Hernandez said. “He was a good kid, had plans, wanted to join the military, helped out his dad and his family. And we just want justice for JJ. We know that two families are devastated here, there’s two families affected. And it’s a senseless killing, and we are very devastated, so we just ask for justice.”
Simeonoff will appear in court again on Thursday for a pre-indictment hearing. He is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Complex.
Berezkin was taken into custody Wednesday evening, police stated in a Nixle alert. He was still considered by police to be a person of interest in the case as of Wednesday evening. Early Thursday morning, online court records listed charges against him including first- and second-degree murder, as well as first-degree robbery. The 18-year-old made his first appearance in court for the crime Thursday afternoon.
At Berezkin’s arraignment, Hernandez said: ” They’re young, young kids, we know that. We know that their families are also going through their own struggle but they made a choice that night. They didn’t have to shoot him in the back, they could have just ran and walked away.”
Oropeza is one of two Anchorage teens murdered within just a few days of each other. Tiwan Marquis Johnson Jr., 19, was shot in an East Anchorage parking lot and later died from his wounds, police say.
“Why would they want to do that to him? We want to know who planned it,” said Oropeza’s aunt, Maria Compagnone. “We need to do more. Kids are just dying for no reason.”
KTVA 11’s Daniella Rivera and Shannon Riddle contributed to this report.
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