LOS ANGELES – A female member of the Avalon Garden Crips
was sentenced today by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to a term
of 57 years to life for the 2009 shooting death of a woman whose son
had a fallout with the defendant.
Deputy District Attorney Eugene Hanrahan of the Hardcore Gang
Division said Michelle Cato, 29, of Los Angeles was convicted by a
jury on Oct. 21 of the second-degree murder of Sheila Zaldana, 46,
and the second-degree attempted murder of Zaldana’s son.
Jurors, who deliberated about a day, also found true two special
allegations of discharge of a gun causing death and personal use of
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Richman imposed Cato’s
sentence and ordered the defendant to pay $7,500 in restitution to
the state’s victim compensation board for burial expenses.
Two days before the murder, Cato and the victim’s son were
hanging out at a park near Fifth and San Julian streets in Los
Angeles when they got into an argument over a phone conversation –
between the victim’s son and another person in Cato’s presence –
that the defendant deemed disrespectful.
Following the verbal dispute, Cato took a swing at the male
victim but missed and left the park. Earlier in the day, the two had
stationed their vehicles in the same parking lot. When the male
victim returned to his vehicle, he found the hood scratched with the
words “A’s Up,” an Avalon Garden Crips slogan, and the side panels
On Nov. 23, 2009, the man – accompanied by his mother and another
woman – returned to the same park where he ran into Cato. At that
time, the male victim confronted Cato about the damage done to his
Cato acknowledged the vandalism and said that the male victim had
disrespected her. As another argument ensued, the defendant drew a
knife and, thereafter, pulled out a handgun. Immediately, the male
victim called 911 and Cato began to flee.
The male victim, still on the phone with 911, his mother and the
other woman followed several feet behind the defendant for about
half a block. Mid block, Cato turned around and attempted to shoot
the male victim but her firearm jammed.
Cato attempted to fire the weapon again. This time, the defendant
the firearm discharged and Zaldana was fatally shot in the right
An officer of the Los Angeles Police Department arrested Cato two
blocks away as she fled.
The victims were not gang members.