California Supreme Court building. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
California Supreme Court building. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The California Supreme Court Thursday upheld a man’s death sentence for murdering a Maywood police officer and the owner of a Van Nuys market during a five-month crime spree.

The state’s highest court rejected the defense’s contention that there were errors in Edgardo Sanchez’s trial for the May 4, 1992, killing of Lee Chul Kim, the owner of Woodley Market in Van Nuys, and the May 29, 1992, killing of Maywood Police Officer John Hoglund, shot while responding to a silent alarm activated during a robbery at George’s Market in Maywood.

Along with the murders, Sanchez was convicted of one count of attempted murder, two counts each of attempted robbery and assault with a stun gun, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 26 counts of robbery stemming from takeover-style robberies starting on New Year’s Eve of 1991 at a Sun Valley bar and stretching through mid-1992 at businesses in Paramount, South Gate and Maywood.

The state’s highest court overturned Sanchez’s conviction on a robbery count involving one of the five employees at a Van Nuys supermarket in April 1992, noting that the employee could not be located to testify at Sanchez’s trial and finding that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction on that charge.

Sanchez was sentenced to death in March 1995, telling a judge and relatives of his victims, “I deserve it.”

“I ask that the victims forgive me,” he said through an interpreter. “At that time, I did not know what I was doing. I had no respect for God and I had no knowledge of love.”

Sanchez — who testified during the penalty phase of his trial that he had undergone a religious conversion in jail — told jurors that he shot Kim only after the grocer shot him first, Chin noted in the ruling.

Kim dropped the keys to the store’s cash drawer and a money bag he had been carrying after returning from a bank and tried to close a freezer door, then pleaded with a man identified by two of the store’s employees as Sanchez not to do anything to him, according to the ruling. Kim was shot eight times by two different guns, and evidence indicated that he managed to get some shots off from his own .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun, according to the ruling.

Twenty-five days later, Hoglund’s police vehicle was found parked in front of the market in Maywood with his bullet-riddled body partly inside the car with his legs outside and his firearm in its unsnapped holster after he responded to a silent alarm regarding a robbery in progress, according to the ruling. The 46-year-old father of three, who was shot three times, was the first Maywood police officer to die in the line of duty.

On behalf of the panel, Associate Justice Ming W. Chin wrote that “eyewitness identifications were far from the only evidence connecting defendant to the crimes.”

“He was caught on videotape robbing George’s Market,” Chin wrote.

The justices noted that Sanchez “literally ran out of his shoe” after robbing a restaurant in Paramount on May 17, 1992.

“The ballistics evidence, together with other evidence, strongly showed that defendant was the gunman who fired shots during three of the robberies,” Chin wrote.

Co-defendants Benjamin Navarro and Jose Contreras, who were charged along with him in many of the crimes, also were convicted. They were sentenced to life in prison.

— Wire reports

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