Two brothers were sentenced to state prison terms Monday for the fatal shooting of a Navy sailor who pulled over on a San Diego freeway ramp to help a seemingly stranded motorist.
Edson Acuna, 26, and Brandon Acuna, 23, were sentenced in connection to the Oct. 27, 2018, slaying of 21-year-old Curtis Adams on the connector ramp between southbound Interstate 15 and northbound Interstate 5.
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Adams, a Brooklyn native, enlisted in the Navy in 2016. At the time of his death, he was working as a steelworker with Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.
Adams was driving on the freeway with his girlfriend at around 2 a.m. when he stopped to assist a disabled vehicle on the side of the freeway, which was actually a car that had sustained flat tires in a shootout from a bungled vehicle burglary earlier that night, according to prosecutors.
The disabled car was occupied by the Acuna brothers, as well as Harvey Liberato, 26; and Susana Galvan, 40.
Believing Adams was the person they had engaged in a shootout with earlier in the night, Edson Acuna exited the car and shot Adams in the chest.
Edson Acuna was convicted by a jury earlier this year of first-degree murder, robbery, burglary, various firearm counts and a special-circumstance allegation of committing the murder in the commission of a burglary.
He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus additional consecutive sentences totaling more than 50 years.
Brandon Acuna pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, as did Liberato, who was sentenced earlier this year to nearly a decade in prison.
The judge sentenced Brandon Acuna to 13 years in prison. He's already spent more than two years behind bars.
“I believe that no person is beyond redemption, but that’s a personal journey. Their lawyers can’t do it for them," the judge said after sentencing the brothers. “I hope both Mr. Acunas reflect in the years to come on the magnitude of the loss your actions caused.”
Galvan pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced last year to three years in county jail.
Prosecutors said the defendants took part in burglarizing a vehicle parked outside a Mount Hope home earlier that night and got into a shootout with one of the home's residents, resulting in at least one of the tires on Acuna's car being shot out.
Forced to pull over due to the flat tire, Acuna and the others saw Adams stop on the side of the freeway.
As he stopped to assist, Adams told his girlfriend, "I'm going to be a good Samaritan today," Deputy District Attorney Melissa Vasel said at Edson Acuna's trial.
“This world was deprived of the contributions I know Mr. Adams would’ve made," the judge said.
Acuna shot Adams as the Navy man stepped out of his vehicle, a killing the prosecutor described as "nothing less than an execution."
Acuna's vehicle was found on the freeway about a half-mile from the shooting scene, with Brandon Acuna and Galvan arrested nearby.
Liberato was arrested about a week later, while Edson Acuna was arrested that December in Mexico.