Merced man killed 3 people in separate attacks, jury says. Here’s how long he’ll be in prison

Pete Valenzuela Jr., 32, stands up during his triple homicide trial hearing Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, in Merced County Superior Court.
Pete Valenzuela Jr., 32, stands up during his triple homicide trial hearing Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, in Merced County Superior Court. vshanker@mercedsunstar.com

A 32-year-old Merced man convicted last month of killing three people in 2012 is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Pete Valenzuela Jr. was sentenced to serve consecutive life sentences in prison without parole plus 93 years, according to Merced Superior Court records. He also was ordered to pay more than $10,000 in restitution.

“We felt the sentence was just and appropriate given the gravity of the crimes,” said lead prosecutor Tyson McCoy, a Merced County deputy district attorney.

Valenzuela’s attorney, Mark Johnson, didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Pete Valenzuela Jr., 32, of Merced Courtesy Merced County Sheriff's Office

The sentence was handed down last week in Merced County Superior Court.

Valenzuela was found guilty of killing 21-year-olds Luis Humberto Morales and Benjamin Samuel Mariano on Dec. 1, 2012, in the 400 block of West 23rd Street.

Valenzuela was in a gang-related argument with Morales and Mariano at a party nearby and shot them to death at about 2:30 a.m., according to prosecutors. The bodies weren’t discovered until hours later.

A jury ruled he also killed Antonio David Jacobo on Oct. 10, 2012, in the 1200 block of West Sixth Street, in front of Sheehy Elementary School.

Prosecutors claimed a marijuana-related dispute or personal conflict involving one of Valenzuela’s relatives and Jacobo led to the shooting.

He also was convicted of attempted murder after Valenzuela and two others attacked a man on Dec. 23, 2012.

The victim in that attacked testified in court that he narrowly escaped death after he was restrained and Valenzuela pulled the trigger on a gun but the weapon didn’t fire. He said he escaped while Valenzuela reloaded the gun, and that Valenzuela fired at him as he was running away.

The shell casings from all three incidents matched and came from the same gun, which was found two years after the shootings dumped in the rocks of the Don Pedro Reservoir, prosecutors said.

Several members of Morales’, Mariano’s and Jacobo’s families attended the sentencing hearing on Jan. 23, McCoy said. But they decided to not give an impact statement.

“They were very grateful justice was served and the case was closed,” McCoy said. “Now, they can start the process of moving on and healing.”