Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
GANG MEMBER FACES MURDER TRIAL FOR SHOOTING MAN IN FACE IN 1994 AND DIRECTLY CAUSING HIS DEATH AFTER LEAVING VICTIM PARALYZED ON A RESPIRATOR FOR 15 YEARS
SANTA ANA – A criminal street gang member faces a murder trial tomorrow for shooting a man in the head in 1994, leaving the victim a quadriplegic on a respirator until the shot finally caused his death in February 2009. Two co-defendants are also charged in this case, one of whom the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) is seeking to extradite from Guatemala. Erwin Johnny Sanchez, 36, Santa Ana, is charged with one felony count of murder with sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and the personal discharge of a firearm. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison. Opening statements are expected to begin Monday, May 23, 2011, in Department C-35, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Co-defendant Daniel Paul Cruz, 35, Santa Ana, is charged with one felony count of murder with sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and being armed with a firearm. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 35 years to life in state prison. Cruz is scheduled for jury trial Oct. 18, 2011, in Department C-5, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Erwin Sanchez’s brother Giovanny Edgar Sanchez, 38, is charged with one felony count each of murder and street terrorism with sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and being armed with a firearm. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 35 years to life in state prison. The OCDA is seeking to extradite Giovanni Sanchez from Guatemala to Orange County.
Circumstances of the Crime
On Sept. 24, 1994, criminal street gang members Erwin Sanchez, Giovanny Sanchez, and Cruz are accused of driving through Santa Ana searching for rival gang member Scott Sittler, 19. The three are accused of believing that Sittler had been attempting to interfere in the relationship between Giovanny Sanchez and his girlfriend. At approximately 4:00 p.m., the defendants are accused of finding Sittler, who was standing in a cul-de-sac in a residential area on Minnie Street. Several other people were also in the cul-de-sac at the time.
The defendants are accused of getting out of their car and confronting the victim. After verbally arguing with the victim, Erwin Sanchez is accused of pulling out a gun and shooting Sittler one time in the mouth at close range. The bullet pierced through the back of the victim’s neck, severing his spinal cord. The three defendants are accused of fleeing the scene. The defendants are accused of severing the victim’s spinal cord and paralyzing him. The three defendants were subsequently charged with attempted murder.
Attempted Murder Criminal Proceedings
In September 1996, the defendants all pleaded guilty and admitted that they attempted to murder the victim (Case # 94CF2707). Erwin Sanchez was sentenced to 20 years in state prison in 1996 and was due to be released in 2015.