Rene Sanchez, now 23 years old, was found guilty of shooting a man to death at a Halloween party in Escondido seven years ago; the verdict was announced late yesterday, November 19.
Sanchez was 16 years old and reportedly a member of the Diablos street gang when the hostess of a party demanded that he and others in his uninvited group leave her backyard, in October of 2007.
Adults had been playing a card game at a table on the back patio, with little children running around in costumes, when the group of gangster-looking youths invaded the backyard.
“You can just tell the kind of people they are, the way they dress, the way they carry themselves,” one witness told the jury during trial. “They just walk in with an attitude: they are just all hard.” (Prosecutor Geoff Allard asked that media not identify civilian witnesses nor the victims.)
The pretty Latina testified, “I mean, who just walks in on a party where you don’t know anyone, just to mooch off the drinks. I mean, who does that? I asked my husband to leave, to just go, ’cause I felt like there would be problems.” This witness said her husband declined to leave because he did not want to abandon the hosts in case there was trouble.
There was trouble, and the woman’s husband was shot to death. Their small son was tugging at his father’s leg, asking his dad to come away, and he witnessed the fatal shooting.
Another party guest was shot in the back; that man survived to testify. A third victim, the hostess, survived her stab wounds and also testified.
“This case reeks of malice,” prosecutor Geoff Allard told the jury. “This gang worships violence. They call it respect.” Allard, who is a gang specialist, told the jury that when Sanchez arrived at the party with a gun in his pocket, the shooting was, ”sadly, inevitable.”
“He took a life just so he could up his status in the gang,” the prosecutor said.
The shooter fled the scene and was apprehended by Mexican authorities in September of 2013, then turned over to Escondido police. Sanchez is said to be an American citizen.
A jury of 7 men and 5 women heard trial for almost two weeks and deliberated about two days before declaring their verdicts.
Sanchez was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of one man, and guilty of the attempted murder of the other man. The jury decided that a different gang member stabbed the female hostess; Sanchez was acquitted on that charge.
Sentencing is set for January 15 in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse.