A man who was a teenager when he used a shotgun to kill a 17-year-old girl because he thought she had disrespected him was
sentenced Friday to 57 years to life in state prison.
Maldonado was 17 when he pointed a loaded 12-gauge shotgun at the back of Tadeo's head and pulled the trigger. He fled to Mexico and was on the run for about seven years before a tip led to his capture in Tijuana in 2007. The case had been featured on the television show "America's Most Wanted."
Before sentencing, Judge Melinda Lasater denied a defense motion to reduce the conviction to involuntary manslaughter. Defense attorney Robert Bourne said the crime was not premeditated or done with malice because Maldonado didn't think the shotgun was loaded.
Deputy District Attorney Frank Jackson said Maldonado was upset because he mistakenly thought Tadeo was responsible for crossing out his tagging crew nickname from a bathroom mirror at a party. Earlier in the evening, Maldonado had threatened to "kill the (expletive)" because of the perceived slight, the prosecutor said.
The defendant refused to speak at his sentencing.
"Leah was just a joy to everybody," said her mother, Nicholle, outside court. "She always supported her friends. She was there for them whenever they needed her.
"She loved life," the mother said of her daughter. "She was so outgoing and fun and non-judgmental, and I was so proud of her."
The victim's brother, Erik Duran, told Maldonado in court that he couldn't forgive him what he did to his sister, calling the murder
"reprehensible and unforgivable."
"It takes a lot of balls to shoot a girl in the back of the head," Duran told the defendant. "I can't forgive you."
Duran, told the gallery and the victim's friends, "I'm sorry that (expletive) took her from you."