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Driver gets six years in gang slaying

first_imgLANCASTER – A reputed Antelope Valley gang member faces more than six years in prison in connection with the slaying of a Lancaster parolee shot to death after an argument at his downtown home. Rafael Espinoza, 26, of Palmdale was sentenced last week after prosecutors dropped a murder charge in exchange for no-contest pleas to several lesser charges in the killing of Arthur Raymond Morua, who prosecutors say was shot by another man as Espinoza waited outside in a car. “It was difficult to make the connection to hold Espinoza liable for the murder of Morua,” Deputy District Attorney Benny Osorio said. “I was limited to his own statement. No other witnesses placed him at the scene.” Espinoza was sentenced in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday to six years and four months in prison after pleading no contest to assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, being an accessory after the fact for murder, and possession of a firearm as an aider and abettor. Morua, 26, of Lancaster also was a parolee. He was sent to prison in 1996 after convictions on assault and weapon charges and got out for the last time four months before his slaying. — Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744 [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Co-defendant Richard Garcia III, 25, of Lancaster is awaiting trial for murder. The alleged gunman, Byron Matheu, is still being sought. Espinoza drove the other two defendants on Feb. 17, 2003, to a house in the 44700 block of Elm Avenue and was in the car when the shooting occurred, Osorio said. Espinoza told investigators Matheu had asked him to drive him, and he assumed something was going to happen to Matheu’s girlfriend, whose thigh Matheu had grazed while shooting at her a few days earlier. Instead, the trio went to the Elm Avenue house, where Matheu and Morua had an argument that turned into a fistfight, officials said. Matheu pulled out a gun and shot and killed Morua. The defendants are believed to be members of an East Los Angeles-based gang that has members in the Antelope Valley. Matheu’s younger brother, Aaron, was sentenced in 2003 to 25 years to life in prison for a 2002 Lancaster carjacking that authorities said was an initiation into the gang.last_img

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