Posted: 7:31 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, 2013

Antioch gang member gets life for 2011 slaying of Oakley teen

Empty jury box (file)
Empty jury box (file) and wires

MARTINEZ, Calif. —

An Antioch gang member will spend the rest of his life in prison for the gang-motivated fatal shooting a 16-year-old boy at an Antioch house party two years ago.

Ricky Mendoza, 20, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus an additional 25-year sentence in Martinez Friday for the killing of Oakley teen Martin Navarro on Aug. 20, 2011.

"A 16-year-old boy was murdered and beaten for no justifiable reason," Deputy District Attorney Andrea Tavenier said at the afternoon sentencing hearing.

The victim's mother, Graciela Navarro, said outside of the courthouse that the sentence gave her a sense of justice.

Mendoza was convicted in June on a first-degree murder charge and a gang enhancement for the fatal shooting, along with co-defendant Leon Moreno, 21, whose sentencing was postponed today until Sept. 13.

Dressed in a yellow county jail jumpsuit in court, Mendoza kept his hands clasped in front of him, shutting his eyes as the sentence was read. He told family members in the courtroom "I love you" before being escorted out by bailiffs.

The defendant's attorney maintained Mendoza's innocence today and said the two men who testified against him at trial, co-defendant Tony Martin, and George Hellums, who is now in a witness protection program, had self-serving reasons for identifying his client as the shooter.

But prosecutors said Mendoza was not only among a group of fellow gang members who went uninvited to an Antioch birthday party on Aug. 20, 2011, with a plan to find and kill Navarro, but was the one to carry out the plan by shooting him.

The defendants believed Navarro, who did not have a criminal record, was a rival gang member and a "snitch," according to Deputy District Attorney Danielle Douglas.

A fight broke out and, according to Douglas, Mendoza shot and killed the victim in the middle of the garage at the house where dozens of teens were gathered.

Mendoza and Moreno, along with co-defendants Tony Martin, 20, Christopher Donaldson, 23, and Carlos Guzman, 19, were arrested and charged with murder.

Prosecutors said Martin shot a 17-year-old girl in the shoulder as she was leaving the party after Navarro was shot.

A sixth co-defendant, the victim's ex-girlfriend, Jessica Juarez, 20, was originally charged with being an accessory after the fact but was later charged with murder. She is the last of the defendants to face trial.

Martin was initially tried alongside Mendoza and Moreno during a trial that ended in a hung jury earlier this year.

He later reached a plea deal with the district attorney's office, testified against the two men during the second trial and is expected to be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Martin is also awaiting trial on murder charges for the fatal shooting of 27-year-old Ever Osorio in Concord about a week after Navarro's murder.

Donaldson pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and is serving a 10-year prison sentence and Guzman was convicted of being an accessory to murder and sentenced to five years.

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