SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego man who fired a shotgun into a Clairemont park at nighttime, killing a 15-year-old girl who was dancing in the arms of her boyfriend, was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder and other charges.
A jury deliberated about a half-day before finding 20-year-old Luis Francisco Barron guilty of murdering Joanna Vargas on Aug. 27, 2010.
Barron faces 54 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 6 by Judge Charles Rogers.
The victim's cousin, Sarai Villalba, who was at the park the night of the murder, said hearing the verdict brought back memories of that fateful evening.
"As I think about it, it's like as if I was living it again," Villalba told reporters outside the courtroom. "It was something horrible. It was a tragic night."
Villalba said she had a lot of anger toward Barron.
"She (Vargas) was a very loved person for me," Villalba said. "I was really depressed when it happened. I was wondering what was I going to do without her, but I still have her in my mind, every day."
Deputy District Attorney Jill DiCarlo told reporters the evidence against Barron "was overwhelming for first-degree murder and that he had intent to kill."
DiCarlo said Barron's target was the girl's boyfriend, Jose Milan Flores, who was standing right next to the teen.
The defendant murdered the victim after an earlier incident the same night, in which he pulled a shotgun on a 48-year-old man and his friend in City Heights, the prosecutor said.
The defendant was convicted of assault with a firearm for that incident.
Barron and his friends continued on to Lindbergh Park in Clairemont, where he pointed the shotgun out the window and shot the girl in the back, the prosecutor said.
"He (Barron) wanted to hurt someone that night, he decided to hurt someone that night, and he did hurt someone that night," DiCarlo told the jury.
The prosecutor said Barron instructed his girlfriend to "slow down" and turn off the lights on her Toyota 4Runner as she approached the park about 1:20 a.m.
After he fired a 1-ounce slug, Barron told people in the car, "I think I hit someone, I think I hit a girl," DiCarlo said.
Barron hid the shotgun in a bush in Sunset Cliffs and fled to Mexico after the shooting, where he washed the 4Runner "inside and out" to make sure there was no gunshot residue on the vehicle, according to the prosecutor.
Two men in the 4Runner that night came forward and told police what happened, DiCarlo said.
"It was no accident," DiCarlo said of the victim's death. "The defendant pointed that gun right at Jose and Joanna ... and he didn't miss. He intended to kill, plain and simple."
Deputy Public Defender David Thompson told the jury that Barron fired into the park, not knowing anyone was there.
"It (the killing) might be something, but it's not murder," Thompson said in his closing argument.
The attorney said Barron did try to hide after the park shooting, but had no intent to kill that night and had no motive to kill the girl.
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