A Soledad man tied to the Norteno street gang will be sentenced to 35 years in prison in the deaths of two men killed for dropping out of a gang, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office announced today. Judge Russell Scott is to impose the legally stipulated term on Armando Garza Canchola, 25, after the defendant pleaded no contest to two counts of involuntary manslaughter with a firearm in association with a street gang, Deputy District Attorney Steve Somers said.
Scott is to formally hand down the 35-year prison sentence July 11 on Canchola and because the defendant will have two strikes under California’s Three Strikes law, he must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, Somers said. Canchola was tried in the murders of 28-year-old Cesar Vasquez and 25-year-old Victor Martinez, who were gunned down in the city of Soledad after they quit his Norteno criminal gang, according to prosecutors.
On July 2, 2008, the defendant shot Vasquez multiple times at close range in the front passenger seat of a vehicle near the intersection of North and Soledad streets in Soledad. The driver of the vehicle identified Canchola as the shooter and Canchola being arrested and charged, but the witness moved to Mexico and the case was dismissed, Somers said.
Then on Oct. 6, 2010, Canchola shot Soledad in the head and upper spine while the victim sat in a van at the corner of Fourth Street and Palm Avenue in Soledad, killing him immediately. Canchola was charged in both murders but in May and June 2013, a jury was deadlocked and failed to reach a verdict after prosecutors at trial had no eyewitnesses to identify him as the shooter. But as the district attorney’s office prepared to retry him, Canchola decided to enter his no contest pleas in both cases, according to Somers.
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