By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The final three MS-13 gang members to be sentenced in a Santa Maria murder case each received punishments on Tuesday of hundreds of years in prison. [KCOY]
A judge sentenced Jose Balmore Saravia Lainez to 385 years to life and three life sentences without the possibility of parole. Jose Ricardo Saravia Lainez received a sentence of 439 years to life and seven life sentences without the possibility of parole, and Escobar Hernandez was sentenced to 339 years to life and four life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Jurors convicted the three defendants in late June of multiple first-degree murder charges, as well as enhancements for conspiracy to commit murder and gang conspiracy charges.
Amid a string of gang violence, murders in Santa Maria increased from three in 2014 to 13 in 2015. Another six people were killed in the city in Jan. 2016.
In March 2016, authorities arrested 15 foreign nationals from Honduras and El Salvador and detained another 40 individuals as part of a multi-state operation targeting suspects in Santa Maria’s murder spree.
A total of 10 defendants in the case were charged locally, with separate trials taking place in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.
Five of the 10 defendants stood trial in Santa Maria. Each of those five defendants were charged with at least 40 crimes, including nine homicides and 14 attempted murders.
In April, the defendants in the Santa Maria trial were found guilty of the majority of the charges they faced. Then in May, each of the five defendants received multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Of the remaining five defendants in the case, two signed plea agreements, while the three who were ultimately sentenced Tuesday stood trial in Santa Barbara.