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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Life sentence issued in 2010 gang murder

00:30 |

20-year-old convicted of gunning down a rival gang member at the Avenal Circle K one year ago has been sentenced to life in prison without parole, officials said Monday.
Iscander Madrigal, 21, was found guilty of first-degree murder and a gang enhancement in a jury trial that ended on June 28. Jurors deliberated for one hour before returning their verdict. Sentencing was pronounced last week.
Prosecutor Tonya Lee said the shooter showed no remorse at any point during the trial.
“What’s sad is this guy and the victim were both good friends when they were kids,” Lee said. “The victim’s mother even used to baby-sit the shooter years ago.”
Luis Miguel Meza, 21, was found with a gunshot wound to the chest in the Circle K parking lot not far from central Avenal. It was close to midnight on May 22, 2010 and Meza had gone inside to buy a case of beer.
That’s when he ran into Madrigal.
“They were acquaintances growing up, but Luis got into a southern gang and Madrigal joined the northerners,” Kings County Sheriff’s Detective Rachel Moroles said. “They became rivals. But there was no bad blood between them. Just gang affiliation.”
Madrigal was there with another guy, Christian Lopez. Two weeks prior, someone had vandalized a car belonging to Lopez’s mother. It was thought to be gang related, but investigators could never confirm the details.
So when Lopez and Madrigal saw a person wearing Sureño blue, they started “mad-dogging” him, Moroles said.
“Meza walked out and got on his cell phone,” Moroles said. “It looked like he was going to call some more southerners over to start something. So Iscander decided to get them before they got him.”
Lopez handed him a gun. Madrigal shot Meza once, then drove off leaving his one-time friend bleeding on the ground. By the time deputies arrived, Meza was already dead.
It was the second Kings County murder in 2010.
The investigation didn’t take long. Detectives were able to pull high-quality still images of both suspects from video cameras inside the convenience store.
No one in law enforcement recognized the pair locally, but members of the Huron Police Department knew them by name, Lee said. From there, authorities found the car Madrigal and Lopez used to flee the area dumped in rural Fresno County just off of Interstate 5.
Then, three days after the shooting, deputies got a tip that the pair was hiding out at a residence in Reedley. A SWAT team was called in to search the home and both suspects were found inside. They surrendered without incident.
“About five or six months after the arrest we were contacted by Fresno’s gang unit,” Lee said. “They had a confidential informant who had tape recorded a conversation between the two defendants.”
The tape revealed the pair discussing how they killed Meza, even mentioning how Lopez handed Madrigal the gun he used in the killing — a fact that detectives hadn’t yet learned.
That key detail was enough for Lopez, 19, to plead guilty in court to voluntary manslaughter. Coupled with a gun and gang enhancement, Lopez’s sentence added up to 20 years in state prison.
Madrigal made a court appearance on June 20. The week-long trial included the video footage, the recording and the testimony of a Coalinga gang member who testified to overhearing both men discussing the murder.
“The case went quick because there wasn’t any question about the cause of death,” Lee said. “There was a lot of evidence and not much to discuss.”
Lee said the case could have been eligible for the death penalty, but took it off the table because of the suspect’s relatively young age.
“But I wanted him to get the first-degree murder count,” Lee said. “I wanted to make sure he would stay in prison.”
And on July 27, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.


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