MERCED — An 18-year-old convicted killer will now spend what remains of his youth as a state penitentiary inmate.
Judge John Kirihara on Monday handed down a sentence of 31 years to Jonathan Eduardo Medina, convicted last month of fatally shooting 34-year-old Antonio Noia.
Prosecutors say Medina, known by the gang name "La Hormiga" (Spanish for "ant"), killed Noia after being asked to do so by his fellow gang members. He pleaded no contest to felony counts of voluntary manslaughter and personal use of a firearm, as part of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors.
There was no shortage of tears and emotions at the afternoon hearing, as friends of Noia shared stories of pain and loss.
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Dustin Garcia, the victim's best friend, cried openly, telling Medina about how Noia's five children must now grow up without a father.
Despite those words, Medina looked straight ahead, never making eye contact even once with Garcia. "You took a father, a brother, a cousin!" Garcia yelled. "Gangs ain't even worth it. I hope every day you think about what you've done!"
Mary Noia, the victim's 59-year-old mother, didn't attend Monday's hearing, but sent a statement which was read during the hearing.
Noia, who spoke to the Sun-Star, said she cannot forgive Medina for stealing the life of her beloved son. "He took my heart, my life, he took everything from me. I can't sleep, I can't eat," Noia said. "I hope he thinks about it. I hope he thinks it's not funny."
'He's a kid'
As for whether the sentence Medina received is fair, she said it's a long one. Still, she hopes he'll spend the years thinking about his crime and won't repeat it. "I don't know. He's a kid. Whatever I think or whatever I say, it will never bring my son back," she said. "I do believe, in my heart, 31 years is a long time."
Medina was the shooter and one of four people accused in Noia's death, which happened outside an Atwater apartment the evening of Feb. 16, 2008. He was 15 at the time of the killing.
Medina shot the victim at the behest of older members of his gang, who thought Noia was a rival. Atwater police responded to the scene at 7:48 p.m. in the 2800 block of Determine Drive, finding Noia's bullet-riddled body slumped over the rear seat of a blue Ford Bronco.
The co-defendants in the case, Alejandro Mena Cervantes, 23, Reggie Steve Gonzales, 20, and Juan Victor Castro, 23, all pleaded no contest to accessory charges in 2008. They were each sentenced to five years in state prison.
Investigators said there was no indication Noia had been involved with gangs.
Prosecutors said they spoke to Noia's mother and brother before entering into the plea deal, and both felt the resolution was appropriate.