Years after his 4-year-old son’s killer was sent to state prison, a Lompoc father is rallying supporters to speak out as the case returns to a Santa Barbara County Superior Court for resentencing under a new state law.
The plea by Anthony Calles III, accompanied by a smiling picture of his murdered son Diego Anthony Calles, has been circulated on social media ahead of next month’s hearing in the case, reigniting old emotions for the father.
“At first it angered me,” Calles said. “I had some choice words…It just blew my mind.”
“Having to deal with all that again it’s crazy. I wish I didn’t have to go through it, but here we are.”
James Curtis Lujan, now 42, was sentenced to 75 years to life in state prison for killing Diego and badly abusing a 17-month-old girl.
He also was convicted of torturing the boy and assaulting him over several days in a Lompoc motel room before Diego died July 18, 2009, from blunt-force injuries.
Trial testimony revealed Diego had 128 bruises covering his small body from head to toe.
Diego’s mom was Lujan’s girlfriend. The girl was the child of a woman Lujan dated at the time of the assault.
More than a decade later, Calles remembers Diego being “full of energy.
“My goodness, this little guy was like a little tornado, like the Tasmanian devil,” the father said, adding he loved his sister.
“He was happy, loving and caring. Even at a young age, he understood his assignment being a brother,” said Calles, a father of three including “my angel baby” Diego. “I always called him ‘my little man.”
Multiple state prison inmates convicted of crimes in Santa Barbara County have taken advantage of several new laws allowing them to seek different, often lighter, sentences.
Lujan’s resentencing consideration will return to Santa Maria Superior Court before Judge Kay Kuns on March 15.
His request is occurring under Senate Bill 483, which was signed into law in 2021 and affects certain special allegations or sentencing enhancements. It went into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
For Lujan’s case, the law eliminated a 1-year prison term enhancement imposed at the time, but now no longer applies, according to Supervising Deputy District Attorney Scott Donahue.
The District Attorney’s Office will oppose any reduction in the sentence other than as required for the 1-year enhancement that is no longer applicable, Donahue added.
The resentencing petition coincides with the year Diego would have turned 18 years old, bringing up emotions again.
Calles recalled the criminal trial being “trying” and “emotional.”
‘It took a toll on my whole family. Everybody felt this one. Not just my family, it seemed like the community of Lompoc felt it as well.”
After the District Attorney’s Office alerted his parents about the resentencing petition, a friend created a TikTok video, “Justice for Diego,” and the information spread quickly on social media.
An online petition also has been launched, and Calles is hoping people write letters he can submit to the court.
“Write a letter expressing your support keeping that monster in jail where he belongs,” according to the father’s plea.
“My son Diego Anthony Calles had no chance. Why should James?”
Letters can be sent to: Anthony Calles, Re: Team Diego, P.O. Box 208, Lompoc, CA 93438 by March 8.
Lujan, who remains in the custody of the Avenal State Prison in western Kings County, has appealed and lost efforts multiple times, claiming his constitutional rights were violated. In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
For Calles, recent news stories about the arrest of a man for killing his girlfriend’s child in Santa Barbara hit especially hard.
“I feel for the family. I know exactly what they’re going through,” he added. “One minute we’re good, everything’s good, and it just seems like the next second everybody’s world was turned upside down.”