A Healdsburg man was sentenced this morning in Sonoma County Superior Court to 50 years to life in prison for murdering his cousin nearly two years ago.Jose Gonzalez-Mendez, 21, also known as Jose Miguel Mendez-Gonzalez, was convicted March 3 of the first-degree murder of 17-year-old Pedro Fernando Gonzalez Ruiz of Healdsburg whose body was found June 17, 2007, alongside a long driveway off Westside Road in Forestville. The jury also convicted him of intentional and personal use and discharge of a firearm.The prosecution claimed Gonzalez-Mendez shot his cousin four times because he was hitting on his girlfriend. “This is the most senseless and absolutely dastardly crime that I’ve had,” Judge Lawrence Antolini said.Deputy District Attorney Chuck Arden said the crime was “a senseless, stupid murder” that happened because Gonzalez-Mendez felt his own family member was disrespecting him.Ruiz’s father, Angel Gonzalez, asked the court to “send him to sleep like he sent my son or to put him in jail for life with absolutely no communication or to give him a lethal injection or condemn him to die.”Just do what the law allows,” Angel Gonzalez said.Antolini sentenced Gonzalez-Mendez to the maximum sentence allowed, 25 years to life for the murder and 25 years to life for the weapons charges. Defense attorney Walter Rubenstein argued during his summation at the trial earlier this month that the defendant’s cousin, Miguel Guzman could have fatally shot Ruiz even though his client confessed to the killing.Guzman pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact. Rubenstein said Guzman was with the defendant and Ruiz when they drove to a rural area in Forestville to test fire a gun they wanted to sell.Rubenstein argued the bad blood between Ruiz and Gonzalez-Mendez had happened years before the fatal shooting and had been resolved.Arden told the jury Guzman had no reason to shoot Ruiz. He said in addition to Gonzalez-Mendez’s confession, Guzman testified the defendant shot Ruiz and ran back to the car. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department said the cousins worked at Molsberry Market in Larkfield and Gonzalez-Mendez felt Ruiz was mistreating him, and had flirted with his girlfriend.A resident in the 11000 block of Westside Road initially notified the sheriff’s department about Ruiz’s body near a log pile on June 17,2007. An autopsy determined Ruiz died within minutes of gunshots to the head and chest.
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