Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
GANG MEMBER SENTENCED TO 29 YEARS TO LIFE FOR SHOOTING MAN IN FACE IN 1994 AND DIRECTLY CAUSING HIS DEATH 15 YEARS LATER
SANTA ANA – A criminal street gang member was sentenced Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, to 29 years to life in state prison for shooting a man in the head in 1994 and 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, was convicted by a jury May 31, 2011, of one felony count of murder with sentencing enhancements for criminal street gang activity and the personal discharge of a firearm. The defendant testified at trial and claimed he acted in a heat of passion. The jury rejected his argument for a voluntary manslaughter conviction.
Co-defendant Daniel Paul Cruz, 36, 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 Feb. 28, 2012, in Department C-5, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Erwin Sanchez’s brother Giovanny Edgar Sanchez, 39, 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
During the trial, the jury heard the following evidence: on Sept. 24, 1994, criminal street gang member Erwin Sanchez, and his two accused co-defendants Giovanny Sanchez and Cruz, drove through Santa Ana searching for Scott Sittler, a 19-year-old gang member. Erwin Sanchez believed that Sittler had been attempting to interfere in the relationship between Giovanny Sanchez and Giovanny Sanchez’s girlfriend. At approximately 4:00 p.m., Erwin Sanchez, accompanied by his two co-defendants, found Sittler standing in a cul-de-sac in a residential area on Minnie Street with several other people.
Erwin Sanchez got out of the car with the co-defendants and confronted the victim. After verbally arguing with the victim, Erwin Sanchez pulled out a gun and shot Sittler one time in the mouth at close range. The bullet pierced through the back of the victim’s neck, severing his spinal cord and paralyzing him. Sanchez and his co-defendants fled the scene.
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.
Cruz was sentenced to nine years in state prison. After completing his sentence in this case, Cruz was convicted of committing