Defendants go free after sentencing in gang murder case

Robert Barrios

Three people who reached a plea deal with prosecutors in July to
avoid murder charges pinned by a rarely used legal theory in the
2008 shooting death of a friend were formally sentenced Thursday,
though they’ll go free after serving the entirety of their terms in
custody.
Three people who reached a plea deal with prosecutors in July to avoid murder charges pinned by a rarely used legal theory in the 2008 shooting death of a friend were formally sentenced Thursday, though they’ll go free after serving the entirety of their terms in custody.

Gilroy residents Robert Barrios, 22, Heather Ashford, 20, and Angel Solorzano, 21, were sentenced to three years in prison for their roles in an incident that lead to the Nov. 11, 2008 murder of 18-year-old Larry Martinez. Because they were in custody for more than two years, however, they have satisfied their time served and are officially freed, said Frank Carrubba, Santa Clara County deputy district attorney.

“Everything went as expected,” Carrubba said Thursday morning.

The three were originally scheduled to be sentenced July 14, but that hearing was delayed until Thursday to allow the county’s probation department time to decide how many days in custody the defendants would receive credit for, Carrubba said.

The defendants had been out of custody since June 30 after pleading no contest to conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon, with an added qualifier that it occurred for the benefit of a criminal street gang, Carrubba said.

Although Cristian Jimenez, 23, remains in custody on homicide charges for allegedly shooting and killing Martinez, the three other defendants were originally charged under the “provocative act murder” theory, in which a person can be slapped with murder charges even if they didn’t commit an action that directly caused the death, Carrubba explained.

The District Attorney’s office agreed to drop its pursuit of provocative act murder after it determined the recommendation through exhaustive research and assistance from a theory expert at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Carrubba said.

Martinez was gunned down in broad daylight on Church Street during an altercation with rival gang members, according to the Gilroy Police Department.

Roughly half an hour before the shooting, Jimenez and two others who are still at large – Edgardo Centeno, 21, and an unnamed juvenile – threw a rock at the car Martinez and Solorzano rode in while Ashford drove, according to police. Soon after, Ashford, Martinez and Solorzano picked up Barrios in their vehicle and returned to confront the Jimenez and the others, police said.

Armed with a small wooden bat, Martinez snuck up on the rival gang members from behind, provoking the them to turn and shoot, prosecutors said. Ashford was not present when the shooting occurred, Carrubba said, and Solorzano and Barrios followed Martinez around a corner house on to Church Street when the shots were fired. The two male defendants likely weren’t seen by the shooter, making it difficult to prove their provocation, Carrubba said.

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