Salinas man sentenced to life After murder of Salinas High School teen
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Julie Culver sentenced Carlos Espinoza, 20, on June 14 to 85 years to life in prison for carrying out a 2009 gang shooting that left a high school student dead.
Earlier, on April 16, Espinoza was found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and related gun and gang crimes in the death of Salinas High student Jose Manuel Perez in the 500 block of Terrace Street. Perez, 15, was on his way to football practice on Aug. 6, 2009, when he was shot. According to police reports, the intended target was a teen that had been with Perez at the time and who later identified Espinoza. He was unharmed in the incident.
Espinoza, 17 when arrested, was the remaining defendant in the case and co-defendants Juan Nunez and Julio Montoya testified during the trial, identifying Espinoza as the shooter, in exchange for pleading to reduced charges. The two received prison sentences. Antonio Gayosso, who drove Espinoza to the scene, is serving a 25-years-to-life sentence.
Prior to sentencing Culver heard from Perez’s siblings who shared the devastating effects of his murder to their family and urged the judge to give Espinoza the maximum sentence in exchange for taking Perez’s life, and with it the slain teen’s goals and dreams. According to court documents, his sister shared how her sibling had received good grades and was respectful to others. “He is no longer here with us and we miss him dearly,” she said.
Espinoza maintained his innocence at the sentencing, saying that there wasn’t any evidence presented during the trial that proved guilt. “I don’t know what facts you’re talking about,” he told the judge. Culver disagreed — stating that there was “overwhelming evidence” of Espinoza’s guilt. The judge also shared letters she received that spoke of Perez as “a young man who was paving a positive path for himself.” One of the letters, Culver shared, stated that Perez “was no longer here because someone wanted to be known in a gang.”
She stated that there was nothing she could do to bring Perez back to life or peace to his family. “But I can send a message,” Culver said. “(This was a) senseless killing and it will not be treated lightly.”
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