Gang banger Erwin Johnny Sanchez thought 19-year-old Scott Sittler was making time with the girlfriend of Sanchez's brother. So, around 4 p.m. on Sept. 24, 1994, in a residential cul-de-sac on Minnie Street in Santa Ana, Sanchez whipped out a gun and fired one shot into Sittler's mouth at close range. The
bullet pierced through the back of Sittler's neck, severing his
spinal cord and paralyzing him.
Besides being guilty of posing for our ugliest police mugshot of the week at right, Sanchez was sentenced in 1996 to 20 years in life in state prison for attempted murder. He was set to get out in 2015, but something happened that will keep him behind bars even longer: Sittler died.
Sittler lived for 15
years after the shooting as a quadriplegic on a respirator. He spent his days in care facilities. In February 2009, he died of
pneumonia. But Drs. Tony Juguilon and Ajay Panchal, coroners in Orange
and Los Angeles counties, later concluded that the gunshot wound Sittler sustained in 1994 began the chain of events that caused his death.
So, even though Sanchez pleaded guilty in September 1996 to attempting to murder Sittler, after the victim's death the 36-year-old was back on the hook for murder, something the Orange County District Attorney's office charged him with in June 2009.
He was not alone, just as he was not that day he shot Sittler. The chagrined boyfriend/shooter's brother Giovanny Edgar Sanchez, 38, and their friend Daniel Paul Cruz, 35, are also charged with murder.
Santa Ana resident Cruz was sentenced to nine years in state prison for the attempted murder of Sittler. In 2003, after having completed his
sentence in the Sittler case, Cruz committed an armed residential robbery. He was due to be released from state prison in
2022. Now he's looking at another 35 years to life to tack on if he is convicted of murder and gang gun possession counts.
Giovanni Sanchez faces the same charges and possible sentence with conviction. However, he's currently in Guatemala. He was deported in 2009 after having spent three years in Immigration and Customs
Enforcement custody and 11 years in state prison for the attempted murder of Sittler. The OCDA is now seeking his extradition.
Erwin Sanchez was just found guilty by
a jury of one felony count of murder with sentencing enhancements for
criminal street gang activity and the personal discharge of a firearm.
He could get up to 45 years to life in state prison at his
Sept. 16 sentencing in his hometown of Santa Ana.