A 21-year-old man pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for killing a man in a Ceres drive-by shooting. The defendant said in court the shooting was retribution for a home-invasion robbery committed by the victim's sister.
Primitivo Guizar explained why he shot 20-year-old Amadeo Avalos eight times in broad daylight on Jan. 11, 2010. Avalos was driving a red pickup near East Whitmore Avenue and Morgan Road when another vehicle pulled up next to him.
Reading from a written statement, Guizar said he was a front-seat passenger in that car and fired a 9 mm handgun at Avalos. He said he knew Avalos had nothing to do with the robbery, but he was seeking revenge against Patricia Avalos' family.
"I felt her actions should be avenged," Guizar said in court Friday. "I was so wrong for so many reasons."
Before Guizar was sentenced, a court interpreter read letters written in Spanish by Avalos' family. Araceli Avalos wrote that her brother had dreams of becoming a police officer because he did not like injustice. "They destroyed my family by taking our youngest brother," she wrote in her letter to the court.
Guizar has served three years of his sentence in the Stanislaus County Jail while awaiting his trial, which was scheduled to start Jan. 28.
As part of his plea deal, Deputy District Attorney Jared Carrillo said they agreed to drop enhancements that alleged Guizar committed premeditated murder, used a gun in the crime and waited for the victim to arrive at the busy intersection before shooting him.
The enhancements would have elevated the crime to first-degree murder and lengthened Guizar's sentence. The defendant also agreed to read his written allocution in court.
'Rage took control of me'
Authorities have said Patricia Avalos robbed Guizar's relatives of cash and jewelry. She held all of the victims inside the home, including a 2-year-old girl, at gunpoint, threatening to kill them if they moved. With help from four accomplices, Avalos took as much as $250,000 in cash and jewelry and said she would be coming back for more, authorities said.
Guizar said his anger forced him to retaliate. "My rage took control of me," the defendant said in court. "It was my intent to shoot first and ask questions later."
In the preliminary hearing, Carrillo said Guizar knew negotiations between the families to retrieve the stolen property were off, so he shot Amadeo Avalos to instill fear.
Robert Chase, Guizar's defense attorney, argued in the preliminary hearing that the brazen home-invasion robbery provoked his client to irrationally respond with violence.
The district attorney's office has approved plea deals for two other defendants who also were ordered to stand trial charged with Avalos' murder. Enrique Alonso Valadez and Lucila Sanchez, Guizar's sister, have pleaded no contest to one count each of voluntary manslaughter.
Guizar was the shooter, and Valadez drove the car.
The prosecutor argued that Guizar's family conducted surveillance of the red pickup spotted at the Avalos family's home. Carrillo told the judge that Lucila Sanchez spotted the pickup on East Whitmore Avenue and informed her brother it was heading his way.
"My brother did not deserve this death that these three people planned," Jorge Avalos, the victim's brother, wrote in his letter to the court.
He said Guizar and his accomplices "unloaded all their anger" on Amadeo Avalos, riddling his body with bullet holes like a "sieve."
Patricia Avalos since has been convicted of home-invasion robbery and first-degree burglary. She is serving a 21-year prison sentence.
Only one of the victim's relatives, his sister Rebecca Velazquez, attended Friday's hearing. She brought the family's letters to be read in court. She declined to provide her own victim impact statement in court because it would be too emotional.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen allowed the defendant to stand up and face the courtroom audience to apologize to the victim's sister.
"I want to apologize, but I'm afraid my words will sound empty," Guizar said, wearing a red-and-white-striped inmate jumpsuit and shackles on his wrists and ankles. "No matter what I do or say, nothing will bring your brother back."
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.