lady justice 2 16-9

A man already serving a life term for a Colorado triple murder was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing a pizza delivery driver in Long Beach during an attempted robbery two decades ago, and his accomplice was given a 25-year-to-life term.

Venda Johnson Jr. and James Lemon were convicted Dec. 3 of first-degree murder for the Nov. 22, 1995, killing of Renato Teniente.

Jurors also found true a special circumstance allegation of murder in the commission of an attempted robbery.

The 60-year-old victim had just delivered a pizza to an apartment in the 2600 block of East 55th Way and was attacked while sitting in the driver’s seat of his vehicle. The car was parked at a curb and the engine was still running when he was found.

The victim’s daughter, Ressie Teniente, told Superior Court Judge Tomson T. Ong that her father had come to the United States from the Philippines to “chase the American dream” and worked full-time on the graveyard shift as a security guard and also delivered pizzas for a few hours to help put her brother and sister through college.

“When he was killed, all of our lives were changed,” she said.

The case went unsolved until Long Beach police reopened the investigation in 2012, leading to the charges against Lemon and Johnson in 2013.

Johnson, 35, was serving a life prison sentence at Buena Vista State Prison in Colorado for a triple killing, and Lemon, 36, was arrested in Las Vegas.

They did not face the death penalty because they were both teenagers at the time of the crime.

The judge called the circumstances of the crime “horrific.”

“There is no resistance by the victim in this case,” the judge said, noting that Teniente was shot “for no reason whatsoever.”

The judge imposed the maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole on Johnson, saying he had committed other murders in Colorado after Teniente’s killing.

In a sentencing memorandum, Deputy District Attorney Patrick Frey wrote that “Johnson is likely the shooter in this case.”

Noting that Lemon was not the suspected gunman, Ong said he would exercise his discretion in sentencing Lemon to the 25-year-to-life term requested by Deputy District Attorney Patrick Frey, rather than the maximum term of life in prison without the possibility of parole he could have faced.

Lemon’s attorney, Robin Perry, had asked for a seven-year sentence for his client, whom he said has done “very, very well for himself” and became a licensed electrician and married father of four children.

“He’s changed his life. He has effectively shown rehabilitation,” Perry said of his client.

Attorneys for the two told the judge that their clients intend to file an appeal.

—City News Service

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.