Merced ex-pastor gets 149 years to life in rape, attempted murder trial
Nearly five months after being found guilty of rape and attempted murder, a Merced ex-pastor was sentenced on Tuesday to 149 years to life in prison.
Raul Diaz Moreno, who once led the Victory Outreach church in Merced, was sentenced to multiple life sentences for convictions on three attempted murders and three sex crimes, among other counts, by Merced County Superior Court Judge Ronald W. Hansen.
The 54-year-old did not speak during the hearing, where he appeared in yellow prison-issued clothes. Diaz Moreno was found guilty in July but filed a motion for more time, saying he planned to ask for a new trial.
His defense attorney, Douglas Foster, said in open court that it would be “an exercise in futility” to ask the court to overturn its own process by asking for a new trial. Diaz Moreno’s previous attorney alleged discrepancies in how the jury filled out verdict paperwork, as well as changes the attorney said were made to a verdict sheet by the judge.
Foster said he did not find any instructional error by the court, and declined to seek a new trial.
Diaz Moreno on Oct. 28, 2016, shot one of his adopted daughters in the head and the other in the leg outside his home on Beckman Way in Merced, according to Merced Police Department.
He shot another man who was helping the young women. Plus, he fired at officers after they responded to the home, police reported.
The sentence means Diaz Moreno will likely die behind bars, according to Scott Drexel, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case.
“The judge saw the sentencing factors correctly. This was a heinous crime,” Drexel said. “The victims were vulnerable, and the defendant showed no remorse. It was appropriate. He got exactly what he deserved.”
The shooting in 2016 prompted a three-hour standoff with Merced police in which Diaz Moreno initially intended to end his own life, prosecutors said during the trial. Police said Diaz Moreno fired three shots at officers during the standoff, but they eventually convinced him to surrender.
During the month-long trial, prosecutors described a life of abuse that victimized the young sisters from as early as kindergarten. They were taken in by Diaz Moreno after they essentially were abandoned by their mother, according to testimony.
Family members of Diaz Moreno’s declined to speak with reporters outside the courtroom, but said they stand by him. They said they believe the rape allegations to be false.
The jury found Diaz Moreno guilty of all 14 charges, including multiple counts of attempted murder, assault, shooting at police, aggravated sexual assault, sodomy by force, lewd acts and oral copulation with minors.
One of the sisters, Brianna Moreno, said outside the courtroom she was relieved to hear her abuser got such a long sentence. She urged victims of sexual abuse to seek help.
“If you’re going through this, don’t be scared to go and speak out. That could help someone else who’s going through it,” she said. “The longer you wait, it’s harder for you to process and heal.”