Pixel Tracker

Friday, January 18 , 2019, 12:13 am | Fair 51º

 
 
 
 

Santa Maria Man Sentenced for Fatal Gang-Related Stabbing of Teen Boy in 2016

The death of a 14-year-old boy as he walked home from school “destroyed a beautiful family," a Santa Maria Superior Court judge heard Friday before sentencing the man who committed the gang-related stabbing to spend 26 years to life in state prison.

Israel Gaspar Cruz of Santa Maria was charged with stabbing Marcos Javier Arce Pena, 14, in the 1600 block of East Donovan Road in January 2016. The teen, initially identified by police as 15 years old,  received 25 stab wounds in the attack. 

Cruz was sentenced Friday afternoon during a hearing before Judge Gustavo Lavayen after the defendant previously changed his plea to guilty of murder and wielding the knife that killed the teen.

The defendant made a brief statement after a slideshow of pictures showing the victim from school and other life milestones played in court.

“I want to start by apologizing to the family,” Cruz said while sitting next to Deputy Public Defender Lea Villegas.

He added that when people make mistakes, they should learn from their errors and take responsibility for their actions.

Calling it “an absolutely horrible and senseless murder,” the judge told Cruz he not only hurt a family, but he harmed his own life. 

“Unfortunately, the gang culture that exists in this community has become blight on the community,” Lavayen said, expressing sympathy for the victim's family and encouraging Cruz to take advantage of the programs offered so he spends his time in prison productively.

Earlier, Deputy District Attorney Mai Trieu read several victim impact statements on behalf of the relatives who shared how the violent death “destroyed a beautiful family,” taking a physical emotional, mental and economical toll.

“Marcos’ death has left a huge void in our lives. We have lost a son, brother and wonderful young man who was just starting his young life in high school and had very big dreams,” Trieu read from the parents’ statement.

The family fears gang members and said the act of violence went against what Marcos, a Pioneer Valley High School student, stood for.

“He was a very good person who would never dream of hurting anyone,” Trieu read. “In contrast, he was a young man who liked to help his family as well as others. 

“He was a very loving and caring person who unfortunately died at the hands of some very mean and cruel individuals who don’t value life.”

The boy’s mother has been hospitalized for depression since her son’s murder and during a July gathering mistook a nephew for Marcos. 

“It was a very painful moment for her, and it was very heartwrenching to see,” Trieu read from an aunt’s statement. “I believe that only God is giving her the strength to carry on.”

Trieu also spoke out against the gang-related violence against Marcos, an innocent bystander. 

“Unfortunately, this case is another example of the gang violence in our community, and many young individuals make choices to become a part of that life but they do not consider the consequences until it’s too late,” Trieu said. 

Six people initially were charged with murder and a special allegation that the crime was connected to gang activity, but the others took plea deals involving lesser charges.

The other defendants — Carlos Geovani Perez, Daniel Jaime, Gerardo Gonzalez Flores, Pablo Juarez and Andrew Molina — received sentences ranging from four years to 12 years. 

At the time of the killing, the defendants ranged in age from 14 to 19 with Cruz the oldest. All six were charged as adults.

The fatal stabbing in broad daylight on a busy street was one of Santa Maria’s six homicides in an especially violent January 2016 and 2015.

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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.