After showing little emotional before his sentencing, the son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez dropped his head and sobbed as he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the fatal stabbing of a San Diego college student.
Esteban Nunez and co-defendant Ryan Jett listened as family members of the victim openly cried.
"He was only a year younger than I was and was the closest person to me in my life," the victim’s sister Brigida Santos said. "I will no longer be able to see his beautiful smile and his bright happy eyes. However, I will be able to picture him stabbed to death, bleeding, dying alone."
Jett was also sentenced to the maximum 16 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter Friday.
"Where are those smug looks you showed during the hearing? You have never shown any remorse, and I question whether or not you are truly sorry about killing Luis, or are you just really sorry you got caught,” said the victim’s mother Kathy Santos.
Prosecutors say the 21-year-old Esteban Nunez, Jett and two other men were angry because they were refused entry to a party and attacked Luis Dos Santos, stabbing him in the chest, near San Diego State University on Oct. 4, 2008.
"They were the ones who walked away from the fight unharmed while they left us severely injured to hold Luis and try to stop his bleeding. They left us to die," said Brandon Sheerer who was there that night. "It was at that moment my world stopped. It will never be the same again."
It was an emotional hour of statements from family and friends of Santos, who would have celebrated his birthday this Sunday.
"It's supposed to be his 24th birthday in two days on June 27th, but he'll never get to celebrate it," his sister said. "Our family will never be the same."
All who spoke, including both of the victim's parents, asked for the maximum penalty (16 years) for Nunez after the earlier plea deal.
"I had perfect life. On the morning of Dec. 4, 2008, I received a phone at our house... that ended my world," said Frederico Santos, the victim’s father.
Nunez sat mostly straight-faced before the sentencing showing very little, if any, emotion. Jett cried through almost the entire morning session, which was so packed that staffers had to move the proceeding to a different room to allow more space.
“We will never get to see his face, hear his laugh, laugh at his jokes, go to baseball games with him," said the victim’s best friend, Navid Sabahi.
Two other defendants, Rafael Garcia, 20, and Leshanor Thomas, 21, pleaded guilty to lesser charges. The two men cried a little during the statements and held their heads down most of the time.
Garcia, who was cooperating with prosecutors, admitted taking part in a conspiracy to destroy evidence, and Thomas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an assault and assault with a deadly weapon.
They also will be sentenced Friday. The judge told the court sentencing is not likely until the afternoon.
At a preliminary hearing last year, witness John Murray said Esteban Nunez told him, "I stabbed someone, and Jett stabbed someone, too."
Murray also said three of the defendants were drunk that night and that Jett had removed most of his clothes after returning from the fatal altercation and was soaking them in a kitchen sink. Nunez allegedly told him later that he had stabbed someone on the shoulder during the fight to help protect Garcia.
One of the defendants said, "Let's show them how we do it in Sac-town," said prosecutor Jill DeCarlo at the preliminary hearing. "The defendants were looking for trouble and they bragged that they were all carrying knives."
A witness told police how furious Esteban Nunez and his friends were about getting kicked out of a fraternity party and how they vowed revenge. Another said Nunez declared that he "got one of them" as they left a group of men, including one who said he had just been stabbed.
All four defendants were arrested in Sacramento County in December 2008 and driven to San Diego in four separate vehicles.