Two murder cases were back in Orange County courtrooms last week after being kicked down due to higher court rulings, but only one resulted in less prison time for a defendant.
Dylan William Salazar was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced in March 2013 to 50 years to life in state prison, but State Supreme Court rulings opened the opportunity for the 25-year-old to seek a new trial and sentence.
Instead of going to trial again, Deputy District Attorney Jason Baez convinced Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals to convict Salazar of second-degree murder. The judge then sentenced the defendant to 40 years to life in prison.
Buena Park gang members apparently crashed a family birthday party for the 19-year-old son of George Springer the night of Sept. 12, 2009, in the 8500 block of Bel Air Street. The 42-year-old Springer ordered the party crashers to leave, but one of them, Salazar, returned with a sawed-off shotgun he had stashed at an Anaheim park.
Salazar claimed that he had only wanted to scare rival gang members and that he fired the weapon to defend himself as Springer was pulling out a handgun, but witnesses testified Springer's gun remained in his waistband as he was shot in the stomach while holding the hand of his wife.
Police responding to a shots fired call around 12:20 a.m. arrived to find Stringer lying face down in front of a home. He was treated at the scene for life-threatening injuries to his upper body and later rushed to a local hospital, where he died.
Goethals granted Salazar credit for 2,645 days served in custody.
Co-defendant Alex Bryan Vilchis, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, was also sentenced to 50 years to life in prison on Dec. 7, 2012. He now also faces a new trial and/or re-sentencing.
Another co-defendant, Jose Bautista, testified against Vilchis, pleaded guilty on Sept. 28, 2012, to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Agustin Armaraz Espinoza was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced in May 2013 to 25 years to life in state prison for murdering his wife of 37 years after she asked him to move out because he was unemployed, had gambled away $100,000 of his pension money and had a mistress on the side.
However, an appellate court overturned the conviction when it found Judge John Conley had erred in a jury instruction—while noting Espinoza admitted to the killing and had faced "substantial evidence."
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A jury found Espinoza guilty of first-degree murder again in December, and he was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in state prison. Again.
When Marisela Espinoza failed to show up to work at Alcoa Fastening Systems in Fullerton for two days in July 2010, concerned co-workers contacted the Santa Ana Police Department, whose officers found her body in the couple's bedroom in the 2400 block of North Wright Street. Her car was still in the driveway, but her husband and his car were gone, so police broadcast his license plate number.
Later that same day, Agustin was stopped in his car while entering the U.S. from Mexico. It was later determined that before he left Santa Ana, he had washed his bloody hands and bagged his bloody clothing and the tripod he fatally beat his wife with before driving first to San Bernardino to use his dead wife's debit card and then on to Tijuana to dump the incriminating evidence.
Espinoza tearfully testified in his own defense that he had been drinking heavily before, in the heat of the moment, he conked his wife on the head with a tripod one time. Prosecutors countered she'd been struck in the head up to seven times—and also played up the couple's longtime marital problems as well as his gambling and side dish. Rejecting the defense's argument that Espinoza was guilty of either second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, jurors took only 90 minutes to convict him at the original trial.