An Orange County man who repeatedly shot his estranged wife in the head outside the Montebello restaurant where she worked lost his bid Monday to have his first-degree murder conviction reduced and was sentenced to 50 years to life in state prison.
Jurors deliberated less than three hours on Dec. 2 before finding 31- year-old Arthur Andrew Andrade Jr. of Tustin guilty of the March 16, 2013, killing of his estranged wife, Esperanza.
Andrade’s attorneys argued today that the jury didn’t understand the legal threshold to determine that the killing was premeditated and asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Sterling to act “as a 13th juror” and reduce the conviction to manslaughter or second-degree murder.
“There is a world of difference between the act and thought of murder,” defense attorney Joseph Gutierrez said in arguing that the shooting happened in the “heat of passion” and that his client lacked intent.
The judge said it seemed that jurors had rejected the defendant’s version of events: that he had been distraught over the breakup of his marriage and was contemplating suicide, not murder, when he went to see his estranged wife.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t believe him either,” Sterling said.
Andrade shot the victim after confronting her while she was sitting in her car outside the eatery. The parking lot shooting was captured on a video surveillance camera.
Deputy District Attorney Pallavi Dhawan called the shooting an “ambush” and an “execution.”
“Every domestic violence case will have an undercurrent of emotion … he was in control,” Dhawan said.
The judge agreed.
“I looked at that video over and over,” Sterling said, relating how Andrade stuck a gun in the back waistband of his pants and then looked around for possible witnesses before approaching his estranged wife.
“I think the evidence is more than sufficient. I think it’s powerful,” the judge said, later concluding, “I think he made a clear decision to kill her.”
Sterling, who also denied a motion for a new trial, said it would be “inappropriate” to override the jury’s verdict. And though he called the case tragic for everyone concerned, the judge said the law gave him no discretion in sentencing.
The victim’s sister, mother and two cousins gave tearful statements before the sentence was handed down.
“My sister for me was everything,” said Aisha Soria. “He not only killed my sister, he killed my mom, myself, my family. We are just asking for justice. We want her to rest in peace.”
Celia Miranda, speaking through an interpreter, told the court that her former son-in-law “isolated her (daughter) from the entire family and her friends … She did not not deserve what he did to her.”
The defendant’s aunt and mother also made impassioned pleas to the judge, asking for mercy.
“We lost someone as well,” said Andrade’s aunt, a lawyer who once worked with Sterling in the City Attorney’s Office. “Arthur is never going to have the life that he dreamed of.”
She said the family had taken her nephew to a psychiatric facility for intervention because he was depressed and suicidal.
“He was walking wounded and only those of us who know him could understand that … a video surveillance camera can’t pick that up,” she said. “He couldn’t weigh or balance anything.”
Andrade’s mother claimed the victim had exhibited abusive behavior toward her son and then shouted, “I didn’t raise a murderer!”
As others in the courtroom began to react, a member of the defense team stood and quieted Andrade’s mother and the judge asked that she be led out of the courtroom to maintain order.
Both families accused the other side of telling lies during the trial. However, everyone seemed to agree that the couple, who had a pattern of breaking up and getting back together, had a troubled and extremely volatile relationship.
In the six weeks before the shooting, Esperanza obtained a restraining order against her husband, disabled her social media accounts and hoped to “be left in peace,” the prosecutor told jurors.
However, she couldn’t disappear entirely, and “there was no piece of paper that was going to protect her from this man, who was bent on destroying her because she didn’t want to be with him,” Dhawan said.
Andrade testified in his defense during the trial, crying on the stand.
The judge said today that “I found him to be disingenuous” and the testimony to be “self-serving” and “manipulative.”
Jurors were told that Andrade’s wife sent him expletive-filled text messages calling him a “loser” and verbally abusing his family, but he was still “trying to make the marriage work,” defense attorney Dale Galipo said.
Andrade didn’t plan to kill his wife, Galipo said, arguing that his client wore “no disguise (when) going to a place of business where everyone knows (him), where (he knew) there were cameras.”
The two argued, and when his wife told him she had never loved him, was sleeping with another man and had only used him to get documentation to stay in the U.S. legally, he was pushed beyond his limits, according to his attorney.
“Art lost it. He totally lost it,” Galipo said.
The judge expressed concern that today’s heated courtroom statements might lead to confrontation and asked the families to leave the courtroom separately.
“The emotions in this case are so volatile that I don’t want to take the chance of anyone reacting,” Sterling said. “I want to ask both families to recognize each other’s pain — everyone is devastated by this.”
— City News Service