A cocaine dealer who fired shots on the Riverside (91) Freeway in Anaheim, killing a passenger in a pickup truck, was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley tacked on another 25 years to life to the sentence for David Arzate Cabrera, 49, of Anaheim, who was convicted Jan. 24 of first-degree murder, possession of drugs with the intent to sell and possession of a gun by a felon. Jurors, who deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours, found true a special circumstances allegation of killing during a drive-by shooting and a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a weapon.
Cabrera shot 32-year-old Agustin Villegas about 8 p.m. on July 14, 2014, while the victim was riding in a Ford F150 in the westbound lanes of the 91 Freeway near the Orange (57) Freeway connector, Senior Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy said. The Ford’s driver, Abraham Vargas Herrera, suffered a graze wound to the head in the attack, the prosecutor said.
The men’s teenage sons were in the back seat of the truck, but escaped injury, he said.
Villegas’ wife, Reyna Maya, tearfully told Conley how her husband’s death affected their family, saying he was an active father who was involved in his children’s schooling and enjoyed taking them to soccer practice.
Pointing to a montage of photos of Villegas with his family, Maya said through a translator, “As you can see in the photos,we were a happy family.”
She added, “We’re surviving and continuing on ahead with his memory, trying to be happy every day, but always with an emptiness in our hearts.”
Villegas’ niece, Guadalupe Brito, told the judge that her uncle “was a respectful, hardworking, honest person … When he wasn’t working, he was at his children’s soccer games.”
Villegas enjoyed working on cars in his spare time, Brito said after the hearing.
Another niece, Rocio Zuniga, told Conley her uncle was “robbed of a beautiful life …consisting of four boys and a wonderful wife.”
One son was 15 when his father was killed, and another was still an infant, she said.
“I have never felt so much pain in my heart,” Zuniga said. “Not only the pain of losing a loved one, but the pain of seeing my family broken, seeing my grandmother cry, seeing my cousins lose their sole provider, their father.”
Her uncle was “always smiling,” she said. “I also remember how happy he always was — happy with his wife, happy with his kids, happy with his family and simply happy with his life.”
There were no indications that Villegas and the others in the truck were in danger before the gunfire, McGreevy said.
“There were no issues, no problems with any other cars, no disputes,” he told the jury in his opening statement. “The shots came out of nowhere.”
Investigators did not have much to go on, other than a bullet shell casing found though a canvass of the area, McGreevy said.
An informant, however, told authorities the next day that Cabrera told him he was the killer and that the victim wasn’t the “good guy” who was being portrayed on news reports, the prosecutor said.
The informant later met with Cabrera, wearing a wire, and carried out a fake drug buy from the defendant to help elicit more information about the shooting, McGreevy said.
Police set up surveillance at the mobile park home where the defendant lived and later searched his car and home, where they found a gun as well as large amounts of cash and cocaine, McGreevy said. A secret compartment in the Nissan Altima, which the defendant was driving during the shooting, contained a gun, he said.
Cabrera told police after he was arrested that the victim had been following him around and he feared he would get robbed, McGreevy said.