Two defendants on Thursday were sentenced for their roles in the 2012 shooting death of Bradley Mather, whose body was found on a sidewalk in Modesto’s airport neighborhood.
Kraig Palacio, 22, of Modesto and Jose Cazares, 20, of Turlock each agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a trial. Their case was scheduled for a preliminary hearing earlier this month before attorneys reached a deal.
“Regardless of what he did, he was always a great big brother,” said Andrew Mather, the victim’s younger brother. His family spoke in court Thursday morning before the defendants were formally sentenced.
Palacio pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison in Mather’s death. The defendant has been previously convicted of assault with a firearm.
Superior Court Judge Rick Distaso told Palacio that his latest conviction is considered a second strike under the state’s “three-strikes” law. The judge told Palacio that he could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison if he is convicted of one more strike offense.
Cazares pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in Mather’s death. Distaso sentenced Cazares to 14 years in prison. Both defendants initially were charged with participating in a criminal street gang, but those charges were dropped.
The shooting occurred in December 2012. Mather’s body was found in front of a home in the 300 block of Santa Rita Avenue. Neighbors said at the time that it appeared Mather was shot several times. Authorities found and arrested the defendants a few weeks later.
The court gives families of victims an opportunity to speak in court about the impact of the crime before defendants are sentenced. Mather was 25 years old and had a daughter when he was shot and killed.
Melissa Mather, the victim’s sister, told the judge that her family remains heartbroken over his death. “I can no longer be fully happy,” she said.
The victim’s family said he was quick with a joke to cheer up just about anyone. Nancy Lozano, Mather’s mother, told the judge that she has had to participate in grief counseling to help her cope with her son’s death.
“I cry every day for him,” she said while reading a written statement in court. “All I have is pictures and memories of him.”