Two life prison terms handed down in 2010 gang murders

10/11/2013 5:42 PM

10/12/2013 1:46 AM

Convicted killer Bryan Bridgeford asked to address the court before a Merced County judge handed down back-to-back life prison sentences on Friday.

Shackled and wearing red jail clothes, the 24-year-old remained seated while addressing Judge Donald J. Proietti and first expressed sympathy for the families of the two men murdered on Jan.5, 2010.

“I feel for their loss,” he said, “but, what’s happening here ain’t justice.”

A Merced County Superior Court jury convicted Bridgeford in August of killing Lionel Medina, 16 and Juan Avalos, 21, who authorities said were rival gang members. The two were shot dead in a detached garage at Medina’s home in the 19000 block of Highway 33 near Dos Palos. Co-defendant Henry Delatorre pleaded no contest in 2011 to two counts of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 31 years in prison.

Merced County Sheriff’s deputies initially believed a third man may have been involved in the gang attack as the driver of the getaway vehicle, but prosecutors said there was no evidence to support those claims.

In a prepared statement addressed to the court on Friday, Medina’s parents, Ishmael and Maria, told the judge their son’s murder devastated their lives. They described the murders as “cold-blooded and cowardly.”

“Still to this day, we don’t have peace,” they said.

In his ruling, the judge said he agreed with the sentencing report prepared by the Merced County Probation Department. The sentencing report notes that Bridgeford has no prior criminal convictions, but recommended life in prison because of the serious nature of the crime.

“You, Mr. Bridgeford, are a serious danger to society,” Proietti said.

Proietti ordered the maximum possible sentence of back-to-back life prison terms without the possibility of parole as well as 50 years to life behind state prison bars. Members of Bridgeford’s family wept in court as the judge handed down his ruling. They declined comment outside the courtroom afterward.

Defense attorney Christopher Caine told the court an appeal is planned. He could not be reached for comment after Friday’s hearing.

Deputy District Attorney Misty Compton, who was one of two prosecutors in the case, described the double murder as “very cold blooded.”

“Based on the convictions of this defendant, the co-defendant, this was a just sentence” Compton said.

The defense attorney argued that Bridgeford has poor communication skills and made a false confession because he was scared. Caine told jurors there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence on the rifle and said prosecutors had no physical evidence tying Bridgeford to the murders.

Caine questioned the credibility of a key prosecution witness, Jose Vidal German, a friend of Bridgeford’s who testified that the defendant admitted to the crimes. During the trial earlier this year, German, 23, testified that Bridgeford confessed to shooting both men with a .22-caliber rifle.

German was eventually charged in the case as being an accessory to the murders after the fact. He is due back in court Dec.4.

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