A 19-year-old Lompoc man was sentenced to nearly 15 years in state prison on Wednesday for what a Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge called a “senseless and stupid decision” that killed a father of three earlier this year.
Jorge Tafoya Jr., who was 18 at the time, was arrested in March for the fatal shooting of Maurilio De La Cruz, 37, in the 1000 block of North H Street early Feb. 19.
De La Cruz suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died at a local hospital, in what was the city’s first fatal shooting of the year.
Tafoya, who was represented by Erica Sutherland, previously pleaded guilty in Superior Court to voluntary manslaughter and being an accessory along with admitting personal use of a firearm.
He initially was charged with murder and being an accessory, plus faced several sentencing enhancements.
Before sentencing Tafoya on Wednesday afternoon in a full courtroom, Judge Von Deroian watched a video showing images of De La Cruz through his life and heard from the children, wife and mother of De La Cruz about their loss.
You took something from me that I can never get back,” his son wrote in a victim impact statement read aloud by Deputy District Attorney Madison Whitmore.
The boy shared that his grief has led to anger, causing him to lash out at the wrong people.
“I didn’t get to say goodbye,” the boy wrote. “My life has never been the same.”
One of De La Cruz’s daughters said it was unfair Tafoya gets a second chance.
“Why should you get a second chance at life but not my father,” she said.
“You are a bad person,” another daughter wrote.
Their mother wrote that Tafoya’s action destroyed the family.
“You took away a good man with a big heart,” she said, adding that her husband was a hard workers always willing to help others.
The judge sentenced Tafoya to 14 years and eight months in state prison. He was credited with 282 days of good time/work time. He also must pay fines, and has agreed to provide restitution of $7,500.
Family members, with Tafoya’s relatives sitting on one side and the De La Cruz family on the other, nearly filled the courtroom, leading the judge to note the defendant’s actions had an immeasurable ripple effect on those in the courtroom.
Deroian added she hoped Tafoya would pursue his education while in prison and work to better his life.
“For the next 14 years, you are not going to live an easy life,” the judge told him.
“I hope you recognize the damage you’ve done and make amends to lead a better life, one without this needless violence,” the judge said before remanding Tafoya to the California Department od Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Lompoc detectives arrested a second person, a 17-year-old male, in October, on suspicion of murder and participation in a criminal street gang for his role in the shooting death of De La Cruz.
The teenager’s name wasn’t released due to his age.
His case has been making its way through the Santa Barbara County Juvenile Court.