Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fresno man sentenced to 50 to life for murdering estranged wife, brother-in-law

Stepdaughters speak of trauma after guilty plea by a Fresno man.
Published online on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009
By Pablo Lopez / The Fresno Bee
A Fresno man was sentenced Friday to 50 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his estranged wife and her brother in August 2007. Moses Mejia, 40, sobbed in Fresno County Superior Court as his three stepdaughters, who witnessed the shooting, and several other relatives tearfully described how Mejia ruined their lives.

"We all live with a pill, a depression pill, so we can keep on living," said Ofilia Perez, the mother of the two slain victims -- Sandra Luevano and Javier Castro.

Police said Mejia took a cab to Luevano's home on North Crystal Avenue, entered the residence, shot the two victims and then left in the same cab on Aug. 31, 2007. Luevano's daughters were 15, 13 and 11 at the time of the shooting. Friday, the three sisters told Judge Gary Orozco that they suffer from depression, anxiety and fear. In my nightmares, I hear Javier scream," said Jasmine Nagra. "I hear the gunshots."

Daniela Luevano said she still can vividly see her mother and uncle dead on the floor. "I remember it as if it happened yesterday," she said. Monica Luevano said she remembers feeling helpless and calling 911.

The three girls told the judge that Mejia deserves a long prison term, but said they don't harbor hate for him. Instead, they have forgiven him. "I hope he finds the help he needs," Jasmine Nagra said. Javier Castro's two school-age sons, Michael and Daniel, told the judge that they also feel a huge loss. "The only time I can see him is in my dreams," Daniel Castro said.

Police said Mejia and Luevano were married about five years, but were separated when the shooting happened. She had obtained an emergency protective order against Mejia, but the order never was served because he could not be found, police said.

Attorney Michael Aed, who represented Mejia, said Friday that his client admitted guilt during his trial last month to spare Luevano's daughters from testifying. Mejia admitted guilt against his attorney's advice. "It was a crime-of-passion shooting," Aed said. Now, Mejia will be nearly 90 years old before he is eligible for parole, Aed said.

Mejia did not speak in court, but in a letter, he wrote that he was sorry. If the death penalty was an option, Mejia would have taken it, Aed said. "He knows what he did was wrong," Aed said.  "And he knows he can't take away their pain."

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