More than 12 hours of deliberations ended Friday with a Merced County Superior Court jury convicting a Merced man of first-degree murder for shooting his estranged wife to death at a family barbecue last year.
Crisanto Bedolla was found guilty by a jury of seven women and five men following a week-long trial before Judge Ronald W. Hansen.
Bedolla, 61, gunned down his wife, Lucia Medrano Zarco, on Aug. 15, 2015, at a family gathering on Franklin Road, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Bedolla and Medrano Zarco, 63, had been married for more than 40 years and had eight children and numerous grandchildren. But the marriage had fallen apart around 2012 when Medrano Zarco struck up a relationship with a man more than 40 years her junior, according to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.
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Matthew Creeger, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said Bedolla plotted to kill his estranged wife, carrying a gun to the party and then drawing her away from the others before he fired five gunshots into her chest.
“Our hearts go out to the family in this case,” Creeger said after the verdict was handed down. “They had to witness their mother being murdered. And they lost their mother and their father on the same night.”
Creeger praised the work of Merced County victim-witness advocates and the investigation conducted by the Merced County Sheriff’s Office’s Major Crimes detectives, including lead investigator Detective Sam Sanchez.
Bedolla’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Chris Loethen, had pushed hard to convince jurors that a voluntary manslaughter conviction was more appropriate than first-degree murder.
Loethen argued that Bedolla never planned to kill Medrano Zarco, but rather lashed out suddenly after enduring three years of humiliation and frustration. He said Medrano Zarco had brought her young boyfriend to family functions that Bedolla also attended and those repeated embarrassments eventually caused Bedolla to snap.
The defense attorney also was careful to say his client was not trying to justify the homicide nor claim that she somehow deserved to die. Loethen repeatedly said that voluntary manslaughter carried the appropriate punishment for the crime.
Loethen, outside the courtroom Friday, said jurors “obviously were very thoughtful and careful” in reaching their verdict after deliberating nearly two full court days.
“I know Mr. Bedolla is disappointed with the verdict, as am I,” Loethen said. “But we respect it and appreciate that they put as much thought into it as they did.”
Loethen confirmed Bedolla likely will appeal the verdict.
Bedolla is due back in court on July 11 for sentencing. He faces a possible sentence of 50 years to life.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482