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Five Men Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole for Torture-Murder of Anthony Ibarra

Judge rules on numerous motions during the hearing, during which family members of Ibarra speak out about 'the nightmare that will never end'

With pictures of murder victim Anthony Ibarra on the screen behind him, Ramon Maldonado listens as the victim’s family speaks about the crime’s impact Friday afternoon in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
With pictures of murder victim Anthony Ibarra on the screen behind him, Ramon Maldonado listens as the victim’s family speaks about the crime’s impact Friday afternoon in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

After denying numerous motions for a new trial, a Santa Maria judge on Friday afternoon sentenced five men to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for their roles in the killing of Anthony Ibarra two years ago.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rick Brown sentenced the men late in the day, six weeks after a jury found the five guilty of first-degree murder.

The five are alleged shot-caller Ramon "Crazy Ray" Maldonado, 39; his father, David “Pops” Maldonado, 57; Santos “Lil Tuffy” Sauceda, 35; Reyes “Pumpkin” Gonzales, 44; and Jason Castillo, 31.

They were among 11 people — the youngest being a teen whose dad and grandfather were two of the defendants — charged with the murder of Ibarra, 28, who prosecutors say was tortured and killed March 17, 2013, in a house at 1142 W. Donovan Road. Ibarra reportedly owed money for drugs. 

His body, with multiple stab and puncture wounds, was found a few days later in a rented U-Haul truck parked on an Orcutt street.

The prosecution contended it was a gang-related crime, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on the gang allegations. Some of the defendants were called gang members while others were labeled associates by law enforcement.

Before the judge handed down the sentences, family members of Ibarra spoke about the loss of the man who was a son, brother and father. They also prepared a video of Ibarra in different stages of his life before showing his lifeless body in a casket and his gravesite.

His mom called it “the nightmare that will never end,” adding Ibarra’s young daughter doesn't know about his violent killing and thinks he got sick and died.

“It hurts every day of my life of the horrifying torture that somebody could do to a person,” one of Ibarra’s brothers said.

Ibarra trial
Reyes Gonzales and David Maldonado sit in a Santa Maria courtroom on Friday morning. They are two of five defendants awaiting sentencing for the death of Anthony Ibarra in March 2013. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

An aunt said that two years after Ibarra’s death the family has good days and bad days even as they think of and talk about Ibarra.

“It’s been really hard on our family, hearing what they did to him over and over again. It’s like we relive it every single time,” the aunt said. “Their lives aren’t over. They still have an opportunity to see their families and hear their voices even if it’s through a glass window.

“And what do we have? Nothing but a picture of Anthony on a headstone.”

Sentencing came after the five defense attorneys — Michael Scott, David Bixby, Adrian Andrade, Fred Foss and Tom Allen — argued several motions.

In one, they claimed juror misconduct should lead to a new trial. However, the judge struck most of the statements, after Senior Deputy Defense Attorney Ann Bramsen argued they didn't meet the admissibility standard.

One concern centered on the fact a juror allegedly declared the defendants guilty upon entering the room at the start of deliberations, prompting worry the woman had made up her mind.

"It's not the best practice I'll acknowledge that," Brown said, adding there was no evidence she failed to participate in deliberations. 

Another concern involved an allegation a juror withheld critical information about a family member who was the victim of a crime. It prompted the judge to inquire why Juror No. 10 didn’t reveal her son’s attack when the attorneys questioned potential jurors.

“I just forgot about it,” the juror said from the witness stand about the incident that occurred 24 years ago.

After questioning the juror, Brown said he was convinced she didn’t withhold the information on purpose and rejected the defense request to declare a mistrial.

The assorted attorneys argued their points on other motions, asking the judge to act as the 13th juror and overturn the verdicts against the individual defendants.

In a sentence he repeated frequently Friday, Brown said he found the evidence supported the jury verdict as he denied some of the motions.

Other rejected motions focused on the judge’s decision to deny a change of venue request, that the court erred in not allowing a childhood photo to be shown to the jury, that the jury instructions were inadequate and that jury verdict forms were confusing.

Before officially hearing their fates, some of the defendants asked to speak before the judge cut them off. 

Ramon Maldonado told the family that it’s “very unfortunate how our paths crossed” before he offered his condolences to Ibarra’s loved ones.

“For what it’s worth, we are not monsters. These hands, our hands are not the hands that took the life of Mr. Ibarra,” Maldonado said, before the prosecutor objected the comments were not appropriate.

The defense team contended during the trial that someone other than the five men delivered the fatal blow that killed Ibarra, pinpointing prosecution witnesses. 

Jury selection for the trial began in mid-November, with testimony starting in January for six of the men charged with Ibarra’s death. 

Members of the jury said they could not reach a verdict on the sixth defendant, Anthony “AJ” Solis. Immediately after the verdict, Solis, who was represented by Addison Steele, accepted a plea and will be sentenced this summer.

Friday's hearing for the five men came a day after another defendant in the case was sentenced. Per her plea agreement, Verenisa Aviles was sentenced Thursday to nine years and eight months in state prison.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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