BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Alma Duarte thought she knew what pain was following the deaths of her parents and brother.
But nothing, she said, could have prepared her for the loss she felt at the murder of her first-born son.
"There was so much love between us that now that he's gone I don't know how to live without him," Duarte told a packed courtroom Friday morning just before the sentencing of her son's killer.
It was a sentence that took a while for Judge Gary T. Friedman to read, given that defendant Oscar J. Martinez was convicted not only of first-degree murder, but also of four other felonies. The total sentence was 124 years and eight months to life in prison.
"He'll never get out of prison, and he shouldn't," prosecutor David McKillop said afterward.
Martinez shot and killed 21-year-old Andre Onsurez outside a northeast Bakersfield restaurant in March 2011. Another man, Essam Hashem, was shot and paralyzed and a third victim, Christopher Rodriguez, was stabbed several times, McKillop said.
The prosecutor said Onsurez was not involved in the fight and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Onsurez was a 2009 graduate of Garces Memorial High School who enjoyed wrestling and soccer.
Duarte said her son had more friends in his short life than she'll ever have throughout hers. She said not a day goes by where she doesn't ask God why her son had to die.
Martinez, 21, sat stone-faced throughout sentencing, including when Duarte and one of her daughters, Alexis Duarte, called him a coward. Several people in attendance on behalf of Martinez, however, didn't appreciate the criticism of Martinez and his family and began muttering among themselves.
Friedman stopped Duarte and turned toward the benches of the audience section where Martinez's family and supporters sat and told them the proceedings were no laughing matter. He then warned the entire audience that anyone disrupting the proceedings would be asked to leave.
Duarte continued reading her letter and said she at first had wanted the death penalty for Martinez. But, as time went on, she realized that would be too easy for him.
Life in prison is what he deserves, she said.
"He needs to go to sleep and when he wakes up know there's no future for him," Duarte said.
Martinez's attorney, Doug Moffat, declined comment, as did several people in attendance on behalf of Martinez.
The shooting happened March 12, 2011 outside Maria Bonita Restaurant at 10701 Highway 178. Police have said there was an organized birthday party at the restaurant that day, and a pre-existing dispute between a partygoer and a patron led to an argument and plans to fight once the restaurant closed.
Several fights broke out in the parking lot. Onsurez was shot and killed and Hashem and Rodriguez were injured.
Victor Manuel Palomares, 21, was sentenced to seven years in prison last week for his role in the melee. All charges against a third defendant, Jered Caywood, were dismissed.
Both Martinez and Palomares were convicted of being members of a criminal street gang.