MODESTO — A defendant will avoid a murder trial scheduled to start this week after pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter for shooting to death a 31-year-old man in broad daylight near his home in Modesto's airport neighborhood.
As part of his plea deal, Juanmingo Becerra will be sentenced to 27 years in prison for the death of Jaime Torres, said Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley.
Becerra, 26, of Modesto has been in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail since he was arrested in November 2007, a few days after the shooting.
Enhancements for using a gun and committing the crime for the benefit of the Norteño street gang were added to the voluntary manslaughter charge. Shipley said Becerra also pleaded no contest to one count of assault with a gun on Aug. 23.
The defendant is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Authorities believe the slaying was a result of a dispute between Torres and the Norteños, the Northern California gang that's entrenched itself in some Modesto neighborhoods.
Torres claimed he was out of the Norteño gang. Shipley said the defendant felt that once you're in the gang, you're always a Norteño and Torres wasn't following orders from gang leaders.
Torres was gunned down about 3:30 p.m. Nov. 9, 2007, at Larkin and Thrasher avenues, three blocks east of South Santa Cruz Avenue and a block north of Orville Wright Elementary School.
Residents said they heard at least three gunshots and ran out to find Torres injured and on the ground in the middle of the street. Police said at the time that Torres was shot in the upper body, and it appeared a handgun was used.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.