Case # C-94882

Date: June 4, 2015


*Victims were innocent men playing basketball at Santa Ana High School

SANTA ANA – The Board of Parole Hearings (Panel), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation denied parole for three years June 2, 2015, for a criminal street gang member convicted of the shooting murder of one man and causing the permanent injury of three other men in a van to enhance his gang status. Uciel Murgo, 42, is currently being held at Chuckawalla State Prison in Blythe. Murgo pleaded guilty June 7, 1993, to one felony count of second degree murder and eight felony counts of attempted murder with sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury during the commission of a crime and the personal use of a firearm. On July 30, 1993, Murgo was sentenced to 20 years to life in state prison. This case was originally prosecuted by Senior Deputy District Attorney Mark Sevigny.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Jim Mendelson and the victim’s next of kin attended the hearing at the prison to oppose Murgo’s parole.

Murder of Mauro Meza and Attempted Murder of Widiulfo Meza, Benito Berger, and Catarino Guevara

On the evening of April 15, 1992, Murgo, then 19 years old and member of a criminal street gang, went to Santa Ana High School (SAHS) to workout. A large group of people, including gang members, were gathered on the bleachers at SAHS near the location Murgo was working out.

None of the victims were members of a criminal street gang.

At the same time, 31-year-old Mauro Meza, had finished playing a pickup game of basketball at SAHS with his brother, 24-year-old Widiulfo Meza, and friends Benito Berger, Catarino Guevara, and five others. Mauro Meza got into the driver’s seat of a van with Widiulfo Meza, Berger, Guevara, and the five other men as passengers. As Mauro Meza attempted to leave the parking lot of the high school, Murgo pulled out a firearm and shot at the parked van 14 times. One of the bullets went through Mauro Meza’s head and killed him. Another bullet hit Widiulfo Meza in the head, resulting in permanent brain injury and disability. Berger and Guevera sustained serious injuries. The five additional passengers in the van were unharmed. Mauro Meza was able to drive a short distance to his home, where he died in his wife’s arms.

Murgo initially claimed that he heard a loud noise coming from the van, and thought it was a gunshot being fired at him, and opened fire on the van as he ran back toward the bleachers. Murgo has subsequently admitted that his initial claim was a lie and that he intended to kill in order to enhance his reputation and credibility in the gang.

On Aug. 5, 2014, Murgo petitioned the Panel to receive an advancement of his parole hearing, which was granted without notifying Mauro Meza’s next of kin, daughter, Adelita Meza, pursuant to the provisions of Marsy’s Law for All and California Penal Code section 3041.5. In the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) letter to the Panel, the OCDA cited Penal Code section 3041.5 (d)(2) which “specifically states that the board shall consider the views and interests of the victim in exercising their sole jurisdiction of whether to grant or deny a written request of an inmate to advance a parole consideration hearing.”

In a verbalvictim impact statement, delivered under Marsy’s Law at the parole consideration hearing, Adelita Meza, spoke at length about the devastating impact of losing her father, who was the financial provider and head of their household, and how she lost her mother at the same time because she began working two jobs to compensate for the loss of Mauro Meza’s income. She went on to note that Murgo’s actions inhibited her from receiving a higher education because of the financial and emotional hardships his actions created in her family.

In a written victim impact statement read at Murgo’s parole hearing, Mauro Meza’s son, Mauro Meza Jr., told the Panel, “My father Mauro Meza Vergara was an innocent man who loved our family very much. So much that his absence has affected my life as well as my other two siblings.” In a written impact statement read at Murgo’s parole hearing, Mauro Meza Jr.’s wife, Yesenia, stated “As a close relative to the entire family I see the hurt in everyone’s eyes. As a result from this tragic event my husband never got to know his father.” Mauro Meza’s daughter Eva also delivered a victim statement and said in part, “We grew without a paternal figure no family time our mother worked from morning to dawn to provide for us food and shelter. A death of a father is not easy we were never the same people after his death.”

Unreasonable Risk of Danger if Released

Since his incarceration, Murgo has accrued more than five prison violations, including violations for possession of alcohol, battery against a peace officer, and sexual activity in the prison’s visiting room.

While the inmate has not had any new rules violations since 2011, Murgo was determined to be unreliable by the Panel in regards to the inmate’s relapse and gang prevention plans. The Panel ruled that Murgo appeared to have feigned remorse at the hearing, but had not accepted responsibility for his actions and therefore, could not be counted on to refrain from criminal misconduct had he been released.