Central Valley

April 20, 2009

Sentencing phase of Madera County serial killer Jose Guerrero murder trial under way

The sentencing phase of Jose Guerrero's murder trial began today in a Madera County Superior courtroom with testimony from family members of Guerrero's victims and also from his family.

A jury on Wednesday found Guerrero guilty of first-degree murder for killing three women and attempting to murder a fourth in the 1990s.

Guerrero's family members, who spoke today for the first time during the trial, said he had learning disabilities and was shy but otherwise was a normal child, the youngest of eight. Oldest brother Vidal Guerrero said, however, that in looking back he realized that his brother had problems but that he was nonviolent.

In addition, relatives of the women Guerrero killed spoke about their lost loved ones in court today.

Guerrero, who also was found guilty of two counts of forcible oral copulation and one count of forcible sodomy, is eligible for the death penalty. The sentencing phase of the trial could take two or three days.

Guerrero terrorized the city of Madera in the 1990s with his murders, officials said. Prosecutors say all four of his victims were known to frequent C Street in Madera, a seedy part of town where prostitution and drugs were common. Guerrero picked up the women and took them to the rural outskirts of the city where he either strangled, stabbed or shot them.

He was convicted for killing Tamara Hernandez, a 22-year-old mother who was stabbed to death in November 1998, Julia Woodley, a 41-year-old mother who was shot in the heart in April 1995, and Sharlene Fowler, a 30-year-old woman who was strangled in July 1998, and trying to kill Evelyn Estrada, who was 42 when she narrowly survived an attack in November 1995.

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