A gang member who joined a cohort in fatally shooting a 24-year-old Riverside woman and wounding her boyfriend, who were mistaken for rivals, pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter.
William Sotelo, 31, is the last of eight defendants who has entered a plea or been convicted for the 2006 slaying of Crystal Theobald.
As his case was about to proceed to trial at the Riverside Hall of Justice, Sotelo’s attorney and the prosecution informed Riverside County Superior Court Judge John Molloy that a plea agreement had been reached.
In exchange for his plea to the manslaughter count, prosecutors dropped charges of murder, attempted murder and shooting at an occupied vehicle.
Sotelo is expected to be handed a 22-year state prison term. Molloy scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 23.
The defendant, who’s being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside, was 17 years old at the time of the Feb. 24, 2006, killing, and he fled south of the border immediately afterward.
Sotelo was arrested in central Mexico on May 6, 2016, by Mexican state police, and extradited to the U.S. the next day.
Three people were targeted in the shooting — Theobald, her boyfriend, 20-year-old Juan Patlan, and her brother, Justin Theobald, then 28.
Patlan was driving through the 6600 block of Geranium Place just after dark in his two-door Honda and passed by a group of men standing adjacent to two SUVs and a compact car, according to investigators.
Based on testimony from the trial of Sotelo’s former associate, Julio Caesar Heredia, the group believed that Patlan, Crystal and her brother were members of a rival gang and opened fire.
Multiple rounds were pumped into the Honda, and Theobald was struck in the head at point-blank range, while Patlan was struck in the abdomen. The young woman died two days later at Riverside Community Hospital. Patlan underwent surgery and survived. Justin Theobald was not hit.
Theobald’s mother, who also came under fire, had been driving just ahead and turned around to help her daughter, while the defendants and their friends jumped into their respective vehicles and sped away, according to police.
Prosecutors said Sotelo and Heredia, both members of a La Sierra-based gang, did the shooting, using semiautomatic firearms.
Heredia was convicted in 2011 of murder, attempted murder and other charges and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A half-dozen other gang associates were convicted of lesser charges, including conspiracy, and received prison terms averaging a few years each.
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