SANTA ANA (CBS) — A Stanton gardener was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison Friday for bludgeoning his roommate to death with a sledgehammer as he slept.
Luis Rosales Rivera was convicted Oct. 12 of murder with a sentencing enhancement for using a deadly weapon.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Bromberg noted how vulnerable the victim was and the cruelty of the crime.
“The evidence was very clear the defendant planned this crime,” Bromberg said. “And the victim in this case was particularly vulnerable because he was murdered while he slept.”
Bromberg said Rivera would pose a danger to society if released.
“This was an incredibly dangerous crime,” the judge said, adding the defendant told police he would do it again if given the chance.
Rivera killed 63-year-old Miguel Delacruz on March 26, 2008.
Rivera’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Lawrence Volk, argued during the trial that Delacruz woke up before the attack and that Rivera killed him because he feared the victim.
Delacruz’s niece, Rebecca Rodriguez, said those claims were “ridiculous” and “pathetic.”
Rodriguez said Delacruz was known in his Stanton neighborhood as Tio, the Spanish word for uncle.
“My uncle was a wonderful person,” Rodriguez said after the hearing.
Delacruz worked as a day laborer handing out fliers for a local doctor’s office, and he had a knack for making people laugh, Rodriguez said.
“He was a character,” Rodriguez said, remembering an amusing dance her uncle would do at parties.
“He was a great guy who would make everyone laugh,” Delacruz’s sister-in-law, Karen Rodriguez, said.
Delacruz was also generous, Karen and Rebecca Rodriguez said.
“If it was his last dollar he would give it away,” Karen Rodriguez said.
Delacruz came from Ahuisculco, the same town in Mexico as Rivera, Rebecca Rodriguez said.
When Delacruz found out Rivera didn’t have a place to stay he invited him to be his roommate, Rebecca Rodriguez said.
“The defendant had nowhere to go so my uncle said, `Come on and live with me,’ ” she said.
Rivera lived with Delacruz and another roomate in a converted garage of a Stanton home for about a year, according to Deputy District Attorney Steve McGreevy.
Rivera returned home about 9 p.m. on March 26, 2008, took a 4-pound sledge hammer and slammed it over the sleeping victim’s head at least three times, the prosecutor said.
Rivera didn’t like Delacruz because he thought his roommate was bossy and disrespectful and made him clean the bathroom, McGreevy said.
Delacruz also would make insulting remarks about Rivera’s mother and would tell Rivera when he could watch TV, according to the prosecutor.
The other roommate, who also was sleeping, woke up when he heard the attack and ran to tell the homeowner, who dragged the body out into the alley, he said. Neighbors came across the corpse just after midnight, McGreevy said.
Although the homeowner did not call police, he was not charged with any crime, McGreevy said.
“He just didn’t want a dead body in the house,” McGreevy said. “He didn’t do it to help the defendant.”
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