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Man gets 25 years in murder

Citizen Staff Writer



A 22-year-old Tucson man was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison, the maximum term he could receive, for what the judge called an “unusually violent and terrible” murder.

Alejandro Mendoza Padilla was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in the July 10, 2007, death of Jesus Garcia, 55, but convicted by a jury of second-degree murder. Garcia was strangled, beaten and stabbed multiple times.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Jan Kearney alluded to Padilla’s early run-ins with law enforcement, including a domestic violence offense at age 14 that Deputy County Attorney Michael Kelly said made Padilla rise “to the top of the violent food chain.”

Padilla’s early years, Kearney told him, “left your heart so filled with anger that an event like the one that brought you here escalated into a murder.”

The normal sentencing range for second-degree murder is 10 to 22 years, but Kelly argued that because of Padilla’s criminal history and that he was on parole when Garcia was killed, the law allows for a 20-year presumptive up to 25-year maximum sentence.

In asking for the maximum sentence, Kelly cited emotional harm to Garcia’s family and another conviction for assaulting a juvenile corrections officer.

“He will continue to harm people for the rest of his life,” Kelly said.

Garcia’s family pleaded for the maximum sentence, too, describing the victim as a devoted family man whose murder caused his elderly mother, whom he had been caring for, to lose her will to live.

“His death is so unfair,” said Garcia’s sister, Martha Soto, sobbing.

“His death killed our mom, too,” Soto said. “She never lived to see justice served.

“Don’t let (Padilla) hurt another person, please,” Soto asked Kearney.

Padilla didn’t address the court before sentencing.

Defense attorney Laura Udall cited Padilla’s troubled youth, which included Child Protective Services intervening when he was 12, in asking for a 20-year sentence.

“He is now just beginning to be able to appreciate what life means,” Udall said.

Kearney noted that a defense expert also said Padilla has more insight and maturity now.

“But the fact remains that since a very early time in your life, you have resorted to violence to solve problems, large and small,” Kearney told him.

Padilla will get credit for 572 days served in jail awaiting trial.

Garcia died in a woman’s South Southland Boulevard apartment around 5 a.m.

According to court records, Garcia met the woman in a bar the night before and was taking her home when they stopped at a gas station where Padilla worked. The woman told police she knew she could get more beer after 2 a.m., the state’s cutoff for alcohol sales.

Padilla, using an alias, took a cab to the woman’s house about an hour later and the three continued to drink beer, court records show.

Kelly believes the woman recruited Padilla to rob Garcia, but Padilla became angry and killed him.

Udall said in court records that the woman and her husband, who has a history of domestic violence, may have killed Garcia.

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