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Teenager charged as adult in Cutler-Orosi killings

A 17-year-old arrested in one of four slayings in Cutler and Orosi has been charged as an adult.

Simon Benaventes, of Cutler, was charged with the murder of Daniel Meza, 16, of Cutler, and the attempted murder of a 13-year-old boy who is now out of the hospital. The charges carry gang enhancements. The two were shot Sunday on a street in Orosi.

A plea of not guilty was entered on Benaventes' behalf, and the Tulare County Public Defender's Office was given the case. His name was made public because he's being charged as an adult. Benaventes turned 17 on Monday and is being held at the Tulare County Juvenile Justice Center. He'll be in court again Nov. 7.

The shooting was gang-related, authorities said, as was the slaying a day earlier in Orosi of James Vincent Meza, 18, of Visalia, who is not related to Daniel Meza. But the Sheriff's Department is still trying to determine if a drive-by shooting in Cutler on Sunday that killed two people also was gang-related. Victim Rocio Martinez, 37, died that day, and her domestic partner, Evaristo Enriquez Hernandez, 43, died later in the week.

Meanwhile, sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement agencies in a joint gang unit conducted a three-day gang suppression sweep of Cutler, Orosi and Dinuba this week, leading to 23 arrests, including two juveniles.

Officers confiscated weapons, including two illegal firearms, and powder suspected to be methamphetamine.

Arrested were David Alvarado, 20, Roy Alvarado, 26, Javier Diaz, 27, Thomas Garza, 28, Enrique Magallon, 27, and Augustin Juarez, 33, all of Dinuba; John Montez, 28, Daniel Torrez, 21, Jessie Ortega, 44, Michael Gonzalez, 26, and Daniel Torres, 28, all of Cutler; Cesar Flores, 19, Everisto Arias, 25, Oneli Carrion, 18, Valarie Infante, 33, Jorge Hernandez, 22, Candido Ibarra, 18, Ismael Gonzalez, 20, Jose Araujo, 40, and Hilberto Aguilar, 18, all of Orosi; Jose Garcia, 19, of Visalia; and two 17-year-old boys from Orosi.