A former defendant in the U-Haul murder trial who became a key witness for the prosecution was sentenced to 13 years in state prison Thursday, more than 14 months after he pleaded guilty to kidnapping for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Robert Stan Sosa, 21, made a statement to the court apologizing for his role in the death of Anthony Ibarra, 28, who was found dead in the back of a U-Haul truck in Orcutt on March 19, 2013.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen said that Ibarra had been lured to a house on West Donovan Road two days earlier and killed over money he owed for drugs.
Sosa was one of nine people charged with Ibarra's murder.
He told the court that his participation in the crime was coerced with force and fear, and that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"It is truly sad that it took a precious life for me to see I was headed down the wrong path," Sosa said.
Sosa testified during the murder trial of six remaining defendants earlier this year, and defense attorneys argued that he and two other prosecution witnesses had more to do with the crime than they let on.
Five of the men were found guilty of the murder in April, along with a special allegation of murder by kidnapping.
Ramon David Maldonado, David Murillo Maldonado Jr., Santos Manuel Sauceda, Reyes Gonzales Jr. and Jason Michael Castillo were sentenced last month to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The jury was hung on a sixth defendant, Anthony Jesus Solis, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping with a gang allegation and is set to be sentenced to nine years in prison next month.
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Sosa is the younger brother of Gonzales and a cousin of Castillo. His sister is also the mother of Ibarra's daughter.
Sosa testified in January that he was told to dispose of a machete used in the crime by Jason Castillo, and that he hid it under a shed at his daughter's mother's house. Police never recovered a machete.
Sosa also testified that he had asked Ramon Maldonado, alleged to be the ringleader of the group, if he could get medical help for Ibarra but was told to let him die.
During the trial, attorneys for the six defendants argued that their clients were not at the house at the time of Ibarra's death, but Sosa may have been, along with a brother and sister who also testified in the trial and are in the California Witness Relocation and Assistance Program.
Sosa was the second defendant charged with murder to take a plea deal in the case. Verenisa Aviles pleaded no contest to kidnapping, false imprisonment and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. Aviles was sentenced last month to nine years and eight months in prison.
Pedro Torres and Carmen Cardenas pleaded guilty and no contest, respectively, to charges of being an accessory.
Ramon Maldonado's, son, Ramon Maldonado Jr., also was charged with murder before his case was moved to the juvenile system. He was 14 at the time of Ibarra's death.
Sosa, who appeared with attorney Steve Balash, waived his right to be sentenced by Superior Court Judge Rick Brown, who took his plea. Instead, he was sentenced by Superior Court Judge John McGregor.
His sentencing was postponed several times, most recently in March.
Sosa was sentenced to three years for the kidnapping and 10 years for the gang allegation. He has a total of 945 days of credit on his sentence.