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Lompoc Man Sentenced to 26 Years To Life for Killing Brother

Arturo Herrera's family speak out in favor of defendant in Santa Maria sentencing hearing

Arturo Herrera appeared in Santa Barbara Superior Court on Wednesday, and was sentenced to 26 years to life in state prison for fatally bludgeoning his younger brother. Click to view larger
Arturo Herrera appeared in Santa Barbara Superior Court on Wednesday, and was sentenced to 26 years to life in state prison for fatally bludgeoning his younger brother. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The mother of two Lompoc men verbally lashed out at law enforcement officers, the media and a judge on Wednesday while lobbying for leniency in the sentencing of Arturo Herrera, who was convicted of killing his brother.

The statements came before Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Gustavo Lavayen sentenced Herrera to 26 years to life in state prison for fatally bludgeoning his younger brother, Enrique Herrera, while he was sleeping in their home on a ranch west of Lompoc on July 4, 2016.

In September, a jury convicted Herrera, 32, of first-degree murder and use of a deadly weapon in the attack.

Jurors heard that the killing occurred after Arturo Herrera watched several graphic videos online in the hours before Enrique Herrera, 28, was killed.

The prosecution team contends Arturo Herrera’s phone showed no activity during the time of the attack while only he and the victim were in the home that day.

But the family, led by the men’s mother Martha Herrera, maintains that Arturo Herrera is innocent of the crime.

“Your honor, injustice was done in this courtroom,” she said. 

She blamed the judge for not allowing evidence she claimed would have exonerated Arturo Herrera and claims the real killer remains free.

“He continues to have his freedom while I sit here and have to have a verdict that you’re taking my child away,” she said. “Please tell me how that is just?”

“And if they come back and hurt one of my other family members or me, our blood is in this courtroom’s hands,” she added.

Victim-impact statements are common during sentencing hearings, but the Herrera family members' comments were unusual since they were as favorable to the defendant as the victim.

As his emotional family members spoke about their loss, Arturo Herrera, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, sat stoically facing forward as he had during the trial.

Martha Herrera recalled Enrique Herrera’s return to Lompoc after his own Marine Corps stint, telling of three bar fights that ended with lost teeth, a broken jaw and a broken nose. 

Evidence during the trial depicted the brothers as having a bad relationship.

“Two brothers that loved each other but just didn’t have the words to say ‘I’m sorry’ does not mean he would kill his brother,” Martha Herrera said. 

She called Enrique Herrera a kind man who helped those less fortunate than him. 

The mother claims the investigation “went so bad,” including key evidence lost, DNA evidence tossed out, and more, singling out some Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department detectives for criticism.

She also criticized media coverage “with their poisoned pen setting the stage for yet another innocent person to be tried and convicted without a fair trial.”

The judge in this trial, as is typical, ordered jurors to avoid news reports about the case.

Arturo’s and Enrique’s brother, Daniel Elizondo, also a former Marine, said “something tragic, painful and unimaginable happy to my family” on the day of the killing, but said his brother did not get a fair trial.

“I simply cannot understand how anyone can reasonably come to the conclusion that the prosecution ever met the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard,” he said. 

While critical of the prosecution, the family praised defense attorney Sydney Bennett, from the Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office, for believing in and fighting for Arturo Herrera's innocense.

After the family’s statements, Bennett argued that her client should not face prison time, noting his lack of trouble and past military service. 

She also reminded the judge that the detectives never found the weapon used in the crime

But Senior Deputy District Attorney Brandon Jebens said the jury convicted Arturo Herrera of first-degree murder, and that while a weapon wasn’t found, evidence showed one was used. 

The judge agreed, handing down the maximum sentence after expressing sympathy to Martha Herrera, who attended each day of the trial.

District Attorney Joyce Dudley noted the role of Jebens and the case’s lead detective, Brian Scott.

“As a result of their detailed and careful efforts, this murderer will spend the rest of his life in prison,” Dudley said.

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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