A Fresno man has been sentenced to 12 years and four months in prison for killing his girlfriend three years ago.
Josue Moises Hernandez-Sandoval, 27, pleaded no contest in Fresno County Superior Court to a manslaughter charge last month to avoid a second trial and a potential life sentence if he had been convicted of murder.
In Hernandez-Sandoval’s first trial in April last year, a jury could not decide whether he committed second-degree murder in the shooting death of Juana Zaragoza even though Hernandez-Sandoval confessed to police that he killed her during an argument.
In the trial, defense lawyer Ralph Torres argued that a Mexican drug cartel had killed Zaragoza, and Hernandez-Sandoval lied to police about killing her because the drug cartel would have killed his family.
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The jury, however, found Hernandez-Sandoval guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine for sale.
In a plea agreement, Judge Edward Sarkisian Jr. took into consideration the drug convictions when he sentenced Hernandez-Sandoval on Wednesday.
Zaragoza’s body was discovered Jan. 17, 2012, in the couple’s home at the Sierra Mobile Home Park on Cornelia Avenue, south of Shaw Avenue and west of Highway 99. Hernandez-Sandoval was arrested a week later in the Northern California city of Woodland.
In the pickup with him was his sister, $45,000 cash and a Glock handgun that proseucutor Steven Wright said was the murder weapon. A ballistics test showed that a shell casing found near Zaragoza’s body came from the Glock, Wright said during the trial.
Torres, however, told the jury that Hernandez-Sandoval is a poor Mexican immigrant who was forced into the drug trade.
Torres contended a man named Omar, a member of the Sinaloa drug cartel, killed Zaragoza during an argument. Omar then told Hernandez-Sandoval to take the rap or he and his family would be killed, Torres said.
To solidify the case, Torres also told the jury that the Mexican drug cartel has killed thousands of people in Mexico and in the United States, including the central San Joaquin Valley.
He then read to the jury a few paragraphs from a March 15 Fresno Bee article about the killing of a Fresno man whose brother is former Fresno police officer Alfred “Al” Campos.
Jose Macario Guzman, 28, whose nickname was “Monkey,” was found dead in March 2007 in his burning Chevy Tahoe near Fruit and American avenues southwest of Fresno. At the time of his slaying, Guzman was awaiting trial on charges of possession of methamphetamine for sale. Guzman’s homicide remains unsolved. Sheriff’s investigators linked his death to Mexican drug cartels.
Campos, 39, was fired from the Fresno Police Department in January after he became suspect in an auto-theft investigation. A criminal complaint filed in Fresno County Superior Court charges Campos with receiving a stolen vehicle and perjury. His trial is pending.