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Role in ’96 city slaying nets Mexican man 18-year term

A Mexican man was sentenced Monday to 18 years in state prison for the cold-case murder of a Tucson teen. The term will begin after he finishes serving a four-year federal prison sentence.

Judge Richard S. Fields of Pima County Superior Court noted that although Francisco Ramirez, 36, accepted responsibility for the Oct. 8, 1996, shooting death of Reynaldo Soto, 17, the victim’s age and cruel nature of the murder outweighed a call for leniency.

“I know it’s not sufficient, but I ask for forgiveness from the Soto family,” Ramirez said through an interpreter before sentencing.

Soto’s body was found in the trunk of his father’s car at Tucson Mall.

Soto’s father, Jose Soto, said his family has been devastated by the murder of his youngest son.

“I try to ask anyone here who has a child to try and imagine such a horrible crime,” Jose Soto said. “We heard it on the news. We saw the car. We saw the blood.”

Deputy County Attorney Casey McGinley said Ramirez complied with a term of his plea to second-degree murder by giving a statement to prosecutors.

“The defendant was willing to offer the state cooperation to bring another person to justice,” McGinley said.

“In all candor to the court, the state is concerned that the defendant was not fully candid and fully truthful about his involvement in this case.”

McGinley said Ramirez placed blame for Soto’s murder on a relative. No one else has been charged in Soto’s death.

In May, Ramirez admitted in court through a Spanish interpreter that he helped his relative and another man kidnap Soto, who was a co-worker.

Ramirez’s relative and the other man are not being named by the Tucson Citizen because they haven’t been charged.

Pima County Assistant Public Defender Joel Feinman said although Soto was involved in a cocaine deal that went bad, he did not deserve to die.

Feinman said Ramirez shouldn’t be penalized for refusing to admit to actions others committed in the case.

“Francisco feels guilty. He feels remorse,” Feinman said. “Rey Soto’s blood is on his hands and he will remember that long after he leaves court.

“In its own terrible way, that is punishment.”

Ramirez was arrested last year in Pecos, Texas. Police said at that time a tip from a Midwestern law enforcement agency led to his apprehension.

McGinley said Monday that Ramirez admitted to Ohio police that he shot Soto, even though he told prosecutors here that he wasn’t present when Soto was shot by his relative.

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