General Crime

* Two Gang Members Sentenced for Murder of Pregnant Woman

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Two gang members were sentenced in Martinez today in connection with the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman in the unincorporated Contra Costa County community of Montalvin Manor in 2007. Robert Hernandez, 22, and Robert Leyva, 26, were sentenced separately in connection with the death of Luz Aguilar-Bucio, 32, and her 3-month-old fetus. Leyva accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 14 years in prison after he pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury and participating in a criminal street gang. Hernandez, however, went to trial and, despite his continued assertions that he is innocent, was convicted in April of two counts of second-degree murder, shooting at an inhabited residence, conspiracy and gang charges and enhancements. He was sentenced today to 80 years to life in prison, the maximum allowable sentence for his crimes.

He remained shackled throughout the hearing as a safety precaution. The shooting happened on Feb. 13, 2007 in the 100 block of Michele Drive while Aguilar-Bucio was sitting in bed with her boyfriend talking about buying a house together. Aguilar-Bucio’s three young daughters, ages 8, 4 and 18 months were asleep in another room. At about 11 p.m., Hernandez and Leyva, who are cousins, drove by the house and randomly sprayed it with bullets from an AK-47 assault rifle. One of those bullets went through two walls and into the back bedroom, where it struck Aguilar-Bucio. She died at the hospital shortly after midnight. Hernandez, who was believed to be the shooter, and Leyva who was believed to be the driver, were charged nearly a year later.  Family members of both the victim and the defendant packed the courtroom today while about a dozen bailiffs stood inside and outside the courtroom to provide heightened security.Prosecutor Derek Butts said, “It’s difficult to envision more innocent victims than a Luz Aguilar and her unborn baby boy.” Butts said Hernandez had lied when he testified during trial and had never shown any remorse for his crimes. He said evidence presented at trial showed that Hernandez had a “cavalier attitude” toward the killing of a pregnant woman and that “his allegiance to the gang transcends everything else.”

Aguilar-Bucio’s sister Theresa Aguilar, speaking through an interpreter, said Aguilar-Bucio was the eldest of nine children and always took care of her younger siblings. She said their family was close and Aguilar-Bucio was devoted to her daughters. “When the girls wake up at night and start to cry for their mother, there are times when we don’t know what to say,” Theresa Aguilar said.  “We are trying to do the best we can with her daughters, but there is a space there that will never be replaced,” she said. “Luz was a great person, a great sister and a great mother,” Theresa Aguilar said. Another sister, Bertha Aguilar, said she was glad they lived in a country where justice would be served, but she knew it would never bring her sister back. Both sisters said Aguilar-Bucio had never been involved in any criminal activity. “She just didn’t deserve to die the way she died,” Bertha Aguilar said.  “Because he killed my unborn baby, because he killed my girlfriend, Luz Maria, because he broke this family, because he killed my dreams, he doesn’t deserve to die, but he does deserve to be in jail  forever,” Aguilar-Bucio’s boyfriend Roberto Orellana said.

Hernandez’s sister, Alicia Hernandez, also spoke at the hearing and said she believed her brother was innocent. She said she didn’t even recognize the person her brother was made out to be during trial. She described Hernandez as a jokester and a good brother. Outside the courthouse, she said her brother had not been a gang member when he was arrested, but that he joined the gang while he was in county jail. “A life has been taken and another one will be taken and he didn’t do it and that’s not justice,” Alicia Hernandez told the court as Hernandez’s family members sobbed. “Butts made me out to be a horrible person, horrible, but that’s not me,” Hernandez said. “Everybody makes mistakes, but that’s one mistake I
did not make.” He said he woke up every day and realized he was in jail for something he didn’t do. He claimed that the person who killed Aguilar-Bucio was still out there and said that sending the wrong person to prison was not justice.
“I want you to know that it wasn’t me, I didn’t have nothing to do with this crime, nothing at all,” Hernandez said.
“Mr. Hernandez, your decisions have wrecked two families,” Judge  Leslie Landau said. “They wrecked the family of Luz Aguilar-Bucio and they wrecked your family.”

During the trial, one witness reported being threatened on two occasions and at one point, jury members asked to be escorted to their vehicles when court recessed for the day, Butts said. After the sentencing, Hernandez’s family members were escorted out of the courthouse separately from Aguilar-Bucio’s family members.

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