A 23-year-old pleaded guilty Thursday to fatally shooting a 25-year-old in the chest at nearly point-blank range on North Miami Boulevard in early 2015.
As part of a plea deal, Luis Garcia Navarro, 23, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and three felony robbery charges stemming from an unrelated incident. He had originally been charged with murder.
Navarro's victim was Jose Giovanni Guillen Rodriguez.
In court, Rodriguez's widow addressed her husband's murderer saying, “You left my daughter traumatized … to the point where she can't even hear a loud noise because she can remember her father slowly dying – from murder – laying on the floor.”
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The three robbery charges to which Navarro pleaded were felony breaking or entering a building, felony larceny and felony larceny of a firearm.
On the manslaughter charge, Navarro was sentenced to a prison term of between 72 months and 99 months – or 6 years to 8 years and 3 months.
Navarro was sentenced to an additional 7 months to 18 months on the robbery-related felonies to be served at the expiration of the manslaughter sentence.
In the incident in question, Durham police responded on Jan. 15, 2015 to a reported shooting in the 1200 block of North Miami Boulevard. There they discovered the mortally wounded Rodriguez having trouble breathing. CPR failed and Rodriguez later died in the hospital.
In court Thursday, Durham County Assistant District Attorney Stormy Ellis described the events that led to the shooting.
Based on witness testimony, defendant statements made to law enforcement, and investigators' efforts, Ellis said, Navarro had been riding in down Miami Boulevard in a white Chevrolet Malibu being driven by Reina Espana, and was accompanied by Jesus “Tito” Briseno and Raymond “Ray-Ray” Delvalle III.
The woman and three men drove past a house in the 1200 block of Miami Boulevard in front of which a couple of men "threw up" gang gestures as they passed.
Ellis said Espana later told police that Navarro and Briseno told her to stop and let them out of the car. Surveillance video later showed the two men walking up Miami Boulevard towards the house they'd just passed.
After they got out, Espana drove on, placed a call on her cellphone and was on the phone when she said she heard gunshots and slammed the breaks after spotting Briseno running back in the direction of the Malibu.
“They went up there to beat him down,” Ellis said. Rodriguez pulled a gun. Navarro pulled his. Navarro shot first and hit Rodriguez in the chest, Ellis told the court.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson, Jr. gave the victim's widow an opportunity to speak directly to her husband's killer in the courtroom before Navarro was taken away. Jessica Escobar seized that opportunity.
“I have waited two years and two months to see this piece of crap … this piece of crap, that left four kids without a father,” she said of Navarro, starting her statement. “I've waited this long, to get this – disappointment of a sentence.”
Escobar stared at Navarro with wet eyes.
She rhetorically asked Navarro why he would take her husband's life – the life of a man he didn't even know.
“Why?” she said a third and final time with a windy voice and exasperation.