SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego man who fired a shotgun into a Clairemont park, killing a 15-year-old girl who was dancing in the arms of her boyfriend, was sentenced Friday to 64 years to life in state prison.
Luis Francisco Barron, 20, was convicted in November of first-degree murder for gunning down Joanna Vargas in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, 2010.
The victim's father broke down as he tried to read a letter to Judge Charles Rogers.
"Thank you God for making justice for Joanna," Jose DeJesus Vargas said before stopping and turning the letter over to the judge.
Rogers read the letter, then summarized it by saying the teen's father asked that "the violence in our community be stopped."
Vargas said part of his life died when his daughter was killed.
"You will always be remembered, I promise this," he wrote.
Estela Martinez told Barron that she has found it in her heart to forgive him for killing her daughter.
"He has to ask God for forgiveness first, then he can ask me," the mother said. "God is going to judge him. He took away part of my life."
After she finished speaking, Martinez struggled to get back to her seat and cried uncontrollably.
Deputy District Attorney Jill DiCarlo said Barron's actual target was the girl's boyfriend, Jose Milan Flores, who was standing right next to her.
The defendant killed the teen 25 minutes after pulling the shotgun on a 48-year-old man and his friend in City Heights, for which he was convicted of assault with a firearm, the prosecutor said.
The victim in that incident, using his words and quick wit, was able to get Barron to back off, DiCarlo said.
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.
DiCarlo said Barron had the intent to kill that night. 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, 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 who had been in the 4Runner that night came forward and told police what happened, DiCarlo said.
Deputy Public Defender David Thompson told the jury that Barron fired into the park, not knowing anyone was there, and his crime didn't add up to murder.
Today, DiCarlo called it a "stupid, stupid act."
"I don't know what he (Barron) was out to do that night," the prosecutor said. "He murdered a little girl. She had her whole life ahead of her."
A tearful Barron stood and apologized to the Vargas family before he was sentenced.
"I'm so sorry. I really am," the defendant said. "I cry myself to sleep every night. I can't imagine what you guys are going through."
Barron said he would make it a point to visit the victim's gravesite when he gets out of prison.
Rogers said nothing is worse than a mother losing a child.
"Joanna was as lovely a young woman as one can imagine," the judge said. "I'm sure she would have done much good for the world."
Rogers said Joanna and her friends in the park that night were "having what was supposed to be harmless young people fun."
The judge said Barron had a troubled childhood and was sexually abused by a friend of his father, who was in and out of prison during Barron's formative years.
The judge urged the defendant to turn his life around while in prison.
"Redemption is beyond no person," he said.
Rogers said there was "no sense to be made" out of Vargas' murder.
After the courtroom was cleared, Rogers allowed Barron's mother to hug her son one last time.
"Be strong, OK?" Barron said to his mother as they sobbed together.
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