Longform

The Killer of His Daughter's Mother: A Cunning American Boy Becomes a Mexican Cartel Soldier and East L.A. Executioner

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A month after Torres' murder, Smiley's cousin Johnny Prado, who can be clearly seen in the video, was arrested for murder and attempted murder, and last November he went to prison for 26 years. His friends told police that he was an industrious construction worker, but Chavarria says he couldn't get away from the East L.A. gangs. "When they get older, they still have an allegiance," he says. "If they are called upon, they have to step up." Smiley is still out there, crossing back and forth between Mexico and California, cashing in and spreading mayhem. "It is like chasing a ghost," Chavarria notes.

Bogart Bello's grave site at the Calvary Mortuary in East Los Angeles is on a hill that overlooks the Virgin of Guadalupe Church on 3rd Street and gang territory where he grew up with his childhood friends Torres and Ontiveros. His tombstone reads: "Forever Living On The Top," an homage to his Lott gang. Most of those buried nearby are long dead, and visitors are few. But Efrain Bello tends his brother's site religiously.

"The police don't care," says Bello of his brother Bogart's death. "It's like another drug dealer dead. I don't think my life can continue until there is justice for my brother. To me it was the worst thing that could ever happen."

Efrain says Bogart Bello and Rolo Ontiveros became big-time dealers because they and their families "were dirt-poor." He admits that Bello earned his first $1 million by age 19, and by 2008 was handing out free coke samples to Hollywood celebrities and reaping $25,000 monthly in sales. Among his best coke customers were downtown L.A.'s big lawyer population.

But, he says, his brother tried to go into a legit business by founding Lott Records and producing rap songs, including one about the Lott gang.

In 2008, Bello was found dead in the backseat of his Audi Q7 on Chamberlain Street in Mission Hills, a stone's throw from the Ronald Reagan Freeway. After police turned up few clues, a detective hired by Efrain discovered that Bello and Smiley had just been involved in a drug deal in which Smiley disliked the quality of the coke and "took it as a great disrespect."

Chavarria and Gonzales believe Smiley kidnapped and probably killed Bello, but LAPD Foothills Division homicide supervisor Jim Freund says, "We can't prove that he was kidnapped. That came from the brother. ... Obviously someone dropped him off in the position" in which he was found, lying in his backseat with a bag pulled over his head.

But when it comes to murders and kidnappings in Southern California linked to Jose Saenz, Detective Gonzales says, "People aren't willing to cooperate and talk about what is going on and what is happening."

The killer of his daughter's mother has won silence on the streets of Southern California. Short of a confession from Smiley, Bello's death will go down as accidental, a reminder that the cross-border drug carnage in America's cities — fueled by Smiley and young boys who grow up to be like him, and their willing customers — is never fully measured.

Contact the writer at [email protected].

Rolo Ontiveros was a biz student at Cal State L.A., who held gang meetings at the campus library.

A YouTube video flickers with images of Smiley rubbing his hands gleefully, then executing his friend.

"They aren't dumb-ass, shave-your-head, baggy-pants gangsters." —L.A. County Sheriff's Detective Traci Gonzales

"The cross-border system of American and Mexican criminals is huge." —LAPD Homicide Detective Ron Chavarria

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Christine Pelisek