Trial date set in DP homicide

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 6, 2013 

An Oct. 22 trial date has been set in the case of a 17-year-old accused of committing a 2010 homicide in Dos Palos.

Issac Lopez Espinosa is accused of being the shooter in the Sept. 4, 2010, killing of 21-year-old Tommy Henson. Espinosa, who was only 15 years old at the time of the killing, is being tried as an adult.

He's charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, assault with a semi-automatic weapon and shooting at an inhabited dwelling. The charges include enhancements for committing the crimes for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

If convicted, Espinosa faces life in prison.

Espinosa appeared briefly in Judge Donald Proietti's courtroom Wednesday for a trial-setting hearing.

Defense attorney William Davis said he plans to introduce a motion to suppress some of the evidence in the case. When asked about that motion, Davis said he has questions about what standards are in place when law enforcement interrogates a juvenile, but said he couldn't elaborate further.

"We don't want to talk about things before we can get a ruling from a judge," he said.

Espinosa's co-defendant in the case, Sanson Noe Andrade, 22, was convicted last year by a Merced County jury of first-degree murder. He's serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Deputy District Attorney David Elgin, who handled Andrade's case, is also prosecuting Espinosa.

According to information that came out during Andrade's trial, he drove with Espinosa to a residence on Frank Avenue in Dos Palos.

Andrade, who is Espinosa's brother-in-law, parked the car in a place that allowed Espinosa to fire two shots at Henson and his 51-year-old father, who were outside the house, according to prosecutors. Henson died, but his father, Randy Henson, survived a leg wound.

Prosecutors said the killing was in retaliation for the January 2010 double homicide of Dos Palos gang members Lionel Medina and Juan Avalos, 21. But Henson wasn't a gang member and wasn't involved in the slaying of Avalos and Medina, according to the prosecution.

Sheriff's Detective Chuck Hale found funeral cards for Medina and Avalos inside Andrade's car after the shooting.

Espinosa remains in custody at Merced County Juvenile Hall.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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