Ivan Sanchez, the 21-year-old Santa Ana triggerman who murdered an innocent bystander to a 2011 fight among restaurant customers over which state in Mexico is best, was sentenced today to 50 years to life in state prison.
Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg reportedly called the murder "as stupid as they come."
Esteban Navarette had been eating with others at Mariscos La Ola restaurant in Santa Ana on Feb. 13, 2011, when diners at other tables began arguing over which Mexican state is best. The verbal spat devolved into a full-blown physical melee that spilled out into the restaurant's parking lot.
Sanchez, then-17-year-old gang member Ricardo Guerra Rocha and his older sister Maria Isabel Rocha wound up leaving the parking lot in a car, driving away to pick up a gun and returning to the fracas. But by then the other combatants began breaking up and going their own ways. Navarrete informed his party it would be a good time to leave but as he neared his car, Sanchez put a bullet in his head and jumped into the Rocha siblings' waiting vehicle before it sped away.
Described as a family man and hard worker at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange for 15 years, 35-year-old Navarette died after being taken off life support with his family around his bed.
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Ricardo Rocha, now 19, was convicted by a jury in June on one felony count of murder, one felony count of street terrorism, and sentencing enhancements for the vicarious discharge of a firearm causing death by a gang member and criminal street gang activity. He was sentenced in September to 40 years to life in state prison.
After the murder count against Maria Rocha was dismissed, the 30-year-old pleaded guilty Oct. 10 to voluntary manslaughter and a gang sentencing enhancement. She was sentenced to 16 years in state prison.
A jury on Sept. 27 convicted Sanchez on a felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for personal discharge of a firearm causing death. Judge Froberg made the "stupid" comment today while expressing his regrets to the Navarette family, the Orange County Register reports.