Mendota murderer who says he killed in self-defense gets 16 years to life

The Fresno BeeJune 9, 2014 

A Mendota man who testified he fatally stabbed another man in self-defense was sentenced Monday to 16 years to life in prison for murder.

Darcy Harper, 56, told Fresno County Superior Court Judge James Petrucelli he was sorry for killing 59-year-old Antonio Valencia outside Mendota Market on Sept. 11, 2013. He said he feared for his life.

"I don't doubt you are remorseful," the judge replied. "Nevertheless, this conduct was violent and without provocation."

A jury deliberated over three days last month before finding Harper guilty of second-degree murder. Harper and defense attorney Scott Baly believed the killing was the lesser crime of manslaughter.

A key piece of evidence was a camera that captured the slaying on video. It was played during the trial and several times during deliberations.

In the video, Harper drives up to the store around 7:53 p.m. He is sitting in the driver's seat when Valencia confronts him. The video shows another man, not identified, at the passenger side of Harper's car.

Valencia opens the car door and knocks a cigarette out of Harper's hand. The two men talk for a few seconds before Valencia punches Harper in the head. Harper then gets out of his car and fights Valencia. A few seconds later, the video shows him stabbing Valencia with one quick blow to the abdomen.

Valencia continued to fight Harper after he was stabbed, the video showed. When Valencia finally walked away, a large patch of spot could be seen on the front of his shirt. He was later airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, where he died a few days later.

Monday, prosecutor Steve Wright told the judge Harper lied to police about not having a knife and using it to kill Valencia. And after stabbing Valencia, Harper laughed and joked about it, Wright said.

"The jury saw through his lies," the prosecutor said.

But Harper said he called 911 so Valencia could get help.

"I didn't know he was hurt so bad," he told the judge. "He didn't crawl away. He ran away."

Petrucelli noted for the record that Harper had prior convictions that include domestic violence and assault. But last conviction was in 1995, the judge said.

In announcing the sentence, Petrucelli said, "I am sorry, Mr. Harper, but I do have great concerns about your lies and the video of your actions."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, or @beecourts on Twitter.

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