Santa Cruz man sentenced to life in prison for 2006 murder

- A man with criminal ties in the Santa Cruz area was sentenced to life in prison for a 2006 murder, Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey S. Rosell announced Friday.

Oscar Amezcua Cabrera was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the March 13, 2006 murder of Joe "Jose" Cabrera. The two are not related.

The District Attorney's Office sought the maximum punishment, which was imposed by Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann.

Assistant District Attorney Johanna Schonfield said the sentence was justified.

"Oscar Cabrera is a career criminal who terrorized this community. He absolutely deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison," she said.

According to officials in the District Attorney's Office, Oscar Cabrera was running a criminal organization when he shot and killed Joe "Jose" Cabrera for what was perceived disrespect, on the outskirts of Watsonville.

The defendant then fled to Mexico until 2013 when he was apprehended thanks to coordinated efforts among local law enforcement, the FBI and Mexican officials.

On Dec. 1, a jury delivered a guilty verdict, convicting the defendant of first-degree murder.

According to the District Attorney's Office, he carried out the murder to further criminal activities of the Nuestra Familia, a notorious prison gang.

Officials in the District Attorney's Office said that at the time of the murder, the defendant had an extensive criminal record and had served multiple stints in prison.

He had long been a target of law enforcement officials. Joe "Jose" Cabrera was a skilled mechanic and is survived by a large family.

At the sentencing hearing, his relatives tearfully recalled memories and talked about the void his death has left in their lives.

They also condemned the defendant for his actions.

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