A Fresno man told a judge Friday during his sentencing that he stabbed a man to death because it was “kill or be killed.”
But prosecutor Brian Hutchins said the killing of Lorenzo Valdez Jr., 31, by Michael Spaulding, 37, was unprovoked. “He has never provided a reason as to why he did it,” Hutchins said.
With that, Judge Dennis Peterson sentenced Spaulding to 38 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder of Valdez on Nov. 13, 2016 at a gas station at Blackstone and Dakota avenues in central Fresno.
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At the sentencing hearing, Valdez’s sister, Angela Nieto, said her brother had ADHD and was on the autism spectrum when Spaulding stabbed him in the neck, striking an artery.
Nieto said her brother was a humanitarian who volunteered his time at the Poverello House and SPCA. He was going to school to get his GED and had plans to get married this year. She said Valdez cleaned warehouses for a downtown Fresno contractor and often gave his checks to help those in need.
Her brother was religious, and would walk to church every week, rain or shine. “I know he’s resting in heaven,” Nieto said.
She also had harsh words for Spaulding: “You killed my heart and soul.”
Hutchins said Spaulding and Valdez happened to meet the day he was killed. Then for an unknown reason Spaulding stabbed Valdez in the neck.
Spaulding told the judge that Valdez had a basket of lead pipes, and after Valdez grabbed a weapon and came toward him, he pulled out a knife.
“I’m sorry for what happened,” Spaulding said. “I was in a situation of kill or be killed. I was not going to be taken out.”
Hutchins said that statement doesn’t match what Spaulding told police in a videotaped interview when he was arrested. Instead, Spaulding told police that the victim didn’t do anything to instigate the altercation or provoke his death, said Hutchins, who called Spaulding’s statements “self-serving.”
A store surveillance camera captured an image of the attacker who was wearing a black and white striped shirt, but police did not know who the attacker was until Spaulding attacked an elderly man near the Fulton Mall about two days after Valdez was killed, Hutchins said.
At the time of his arrest, Spaulding was wearing the same black and white striped shirt that was on the video, Hutchins said.
Court records say Spaulding pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on April 27. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed charges in the attack on the elderly man, Hutchins said.
Peterson noted that Spaulding has prior felony convictions for animal cruelty and battery causing serious bodily injury.