Plea deal in 14-year-old case of Grayson man’s murder

10/04/2013 12:21 PM

10/05/2013 4:51 AM

A defendant pleaded guilty Friday and will receive a 21-year prison sentence for his involvement in the 1999 death of a man shot in the face and chest with a shotgun in front of a Grayson market.

Felipe Solorio, 41, formerly of Westley, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for his role in the shooting death of 22-year-old Robert Ybarra of Grayson. Solorio also agreed to admit to an enhancement for the use of a gun in the murder, which lengthened his sentence.

Solorio had been identified as a suspect in the shooting and remained a fugitive for 12 years and a day until Stanislaus County investigators took him into custody on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico.

Mary Ann Ybarra, the victim’s sister, waited all those years, hoping everyone responsible in her brother’s death would be captured and prosecuted. That finally happened Friday morning.

“It’s been hard, but I didn’t give up,” she said shortly after Solorio pleaded guilty. “I needed to get justice for my brother.”

Ybarra said she became a nuisance to FBI officials, calling them once a month and asking about the search for Solorio. At the time, authorities believed Solorio had left the country.

“All they would tell me is that ‘We don’t have any leads,’” Mary Ann Ybarra said. “I didn’t want to hear that. I just kept pushing and pushing.”

She’s grateful for the law enforcement agencies and victim advocacy groups that helped in the effort to find Solorio.

Stanislaus Superior Court Judge John Freeland scheduled Solorio to return to court Wednesday for his sentencing hearing, when Ybarra’s family will have an opportunity to give a victim impact statement in court.

Robert Chase, Solorio’s defense attorney, told the judge his client had agreed to the plea deal rather than take his chances with a jury trial in which he would have faced a charge of second-degree murder and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

While there is no evidence that Solorio fired the gun that killed Ybarra, Chase said his client agreed to admit to the gun enhancement in order to get the plea deal done and avoid the Nov.5 trial.

The judge ordered Solorio to pay restitution to the victim’s family if the family requests that money. Solorio will serve three years of parole when he is released from prison.

Ybarra was shot to death March 7, 1999, while standing on a sidewalk in the 1800 block of Minnie Street in Grayson. He was shot in retaliation for a fight that had occurred about two weeks earlier.

Deputy District Attorney John Baker told the judge Friday that Solorio was upset about the fight between his brother and Ybarra. The prosecutor said Solorio got into a car with three other men and drove from Westley to Grayson to look for Ybarra. On the way there, Solorio stopped to pick up a gun.

Investigators have said a red Pontiac stopped about 20 feet from Ybarra. A man got out of the car and fired a shotgun at him. The gunman then got back into the car, which drove away. Ybarra was pronounced dead at the scene.

Later, the red Pontiac was found abandoned at River Road and Minnie Street. Solorio was the car’s registered owner, and he was quickly was identified as a suspect.

Stanislaus County sheriff’s investigators then learned Solorio might have avoided capture by going to Mexico.

On March 8, 2011, the Sheriff’s Department was notified that Solorio had been arrested that morning in Mexicali, Mexico, which borders southeast California.

Mexican officials took Solorio to the international border crossing in Calexico, where he was handed over to U.S. law enforcement officials.

Investigators from the Stanislaus District Attorney’s Office drove to Calexico and returned Solorio to the county.

Three other men, who went to Grayson with Solorio in the Pontiac, were convicted for their involvement in Ybarra’s death.

In May 2001, a jury convicted Juan “Johnny” Manuel Alardin of first-degree murder. Witnesses for the prosecution testified that Alardin was the shooter, but defense witnesses said he was inside his ex-mother-in-law’s home when Ybarra was gunned down.

Because the jury was split on whether Alardin fired the gun that killed Ybarra, he did not receive extra prison time for the use of a gun in the slaying. Mary Ann Ybarra said Alardin received a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Jeffrey Allen Muniz and Miguel Garcia also were arrested and charged in Ybarra’s slaying. Both made deals with the District Attorney’s Office, pleading guilty to lesser charges.

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