A man who fatally shot another man “for no reason” in Desert Hot Springs more than four years ago was sentenced Friday to 40 years to life in state prison.
An Indio jury convicted Anthony Garza, 31, of murder in June for shooting Dominick Mesta, 21, four times in the face on Dec. 18, 2016. Jurors also found true a sentence-enhancing allegation of discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury.
Garza originally pleaded guilty to the shooting in 2018, and was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison at the time.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office then appealed the conviction, arguing the judge should not have struck a personal use of a gun enhancement, D.A.’s spokesman John Hall said.
The California Court of Appeal sided with the D.A., invalidating the conviction and sending the case back to Riverside County Superior Court for trial.
According to prosecutors, Mesta’s body was found two days after the slaying near a home in the 13000 block of Via Real, wrapped in a pile of blankets.
Prosecutors said Garza shot Mesta in the home’s garage, then dragged the body to a nearby alleyway with the help of Alejandro DeSantiago and his sister, Candelaria DeSantiago, who told police two strangers shot the victim. They both previously pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and were sentenced to about a year in prison each.
Investigators found Garza’s bloody jeans inside the Via Real home’s garage, and the blood on the pants matched Mesta’s DNA, according to the prosecution. Loose ammunition matching the caliber of the murder weapon was also found in the pockets. The gun was found elsewhere in the house, while a bloody shirt was found inside a washing machine.
In a police interview, Garza admitted to shooting and pistol-whipping Mesta and told police “he did it for no reason,” according to court documents.
Garza had no prior documented felony convictions in Riverside County, though he was serving a three-year probation term stemming from misdemeanor convictions for possession of a controlled substance and possessing drug paraphernalia.