Fresno gang member sentenced to life for 2013 killing

A Fresno gang member was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing a rival two years ago for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

Jarrod Ernest Spencer Hayes, 26, declined to comment in Fresno County Superior Court when his punishment as announced.

A jury in February convicted Hayes of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Aaron Foster III, 21, who was shot in the head several times in the parking lot of Family Express Food store and gas station at Fresno and B streets in southwest Fresno shortly before 2 a.m. on May 25, 2013.

Prosecutor Gabriel Brickey said about 35 people were at the store when Hayes fired seven rounds from a semi-automatic 9mm handgun. An innocent bystander was wounded, Brickey said.

During the trial, Brickey established that Hayes is a member of the Villa Posse criminal street gang and Foster belonged to the Hoover Crips. He said two people who saw the shooting testified against Hayes.

Defense attorney David Mugridge, who defended Hayes, said he didn’t believe the shooting was gang-motivated because there was no evidence to prove his client had a prior dispute with Foster.

But Brickey and Mugridge agreed that the killing was brutal. They said Hayes walked up to Foster, who was talking to a girl, and without warning, shot Foster. One of the bullets then hit an innocent bystander.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Hayes’ family asked Judge Gary Hoff to have mercy, saying he was raised in the church and once was an altar boy and active in the church choir. They also told the judge that Hayes takes care of his young autistic son.

Foster’s family told the judge that gang violence has taken the lives of too many young men. They said that only through God and by reading the Bible will Hayes find salvation for what he did.

In announcing the punishment, Hoff sentenced Hayes to life in prison without parole for killing Foster. He added 25 years to life for using a gun and 14 years for wounding the bystander. Hoff also noted that Hayes was on probation when he killed Foster. In September 2012, Hayes pleaded no contest to felony charges of carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle and for possession of drugs.

“This was a totally senseless crime and without explanation,” Hoff said. “It was done solely for gang purposes.”