File photo.
File photo.

A state appeals court panel Tuesday upheld a killer’s life-with-no-parole conviction for the murder, carjacking and attempted robbery of a man who was run over with his own truck in Huntington Park after refusing to hand over his money.

The victim was killed after he refused to pay in advance for sex in a phony prostitution scheme with the murderer’s companion.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there were errors in the jury instructions in the trial of Brian Mendez, who was convicted last March of the Jan. 13, 2012, killing of Efrain Perez-Ortiz.

Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a robbery and murder during the commission of a carjacking.

“There was overwhelming evidence defendant had the requisite intent, that is, the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive Perez-Ortiz of his vehicle when using force or fear to take the truck,” the appellate court panel found in its 25-page ruling. “Because Perez-Ortiz drove defendant and (co- defendant Misty) Ruiz to the scene of the crime, Perez-Ortiz’s truck was their only quick means of escape after the planned robbery.”

The justices noted that the two met the 56-year-old victim in a parking lot while they were drinking beer and that Perez-Ortiz drove the pair to his house, where they took turns smoking marijuana.

Mendez punched Perez-Ortiz in the jaw, knocked him to the ground, punched him in the face and repeatedly kicked him when Perez-Ortiz refused to pay first after the two devised a plan to proposition him for sex with Ruiz, who would then leave with Mendez without consummating the deal, according to the appellate panel’s opinion.

Mendez backed the victim’s truck over Perez-Ortiz after the attack and drove away.

Perez-Ortiz suffered 22 broken ribs, punctures to both of his lungs, a punctured liver, broken nose and fractured cheekbone as a result of the fight and being run over, and died hours later at a hospital.

Mendez was linked to the attack through DNA from a hat left at the scene, Deputy District Attorney Robert Villa said. Mendez confessed to the killing and revealed Ruiz’s involvement when authorities went to interview him, the prosecutor said.

Mendez was sentenced last May to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Ruiz pleaded no contest to a felony count of carjacking and admitted an allegation of use of a deadly weapon — a car — during the commission of the crime. She was sentenced last year to 11 years in state prison.

— City News Service

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