Emmanuel Mendoza and Edgar Canseco, both 21, appeared before Judge Richard Mallett for their sentencing. They were found guilty in Prater’s killing after a jury deliberated for a little more than 11 hours and returned with a verdict on June 14.
Teenagers at the time of the killing, Mendoza and Canseco were convicted of their involvement in the shooting death of Prater on Sept. 15, 2010, along with the charges of attempted robbery, robbery under special circumstances and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Before a courtroom filled with members of the victim’s and defendant’s families, the defendants stood before Mallett with their attorneys on July 31 to hear their formal punishment for the killing.
Prior to the judge pronouncing the sentence, Prater’s father, Kevin Prater Sr., addressed the court to speak about the loss of his son.
“He expressed how we will never be able to see Kevin again,” said Prater’s mother, Robin, after the hearing. “Have no grandbabies; never again hear his voice. A lot of people are suffering from what happened. He was saying as far as the other family, they still can see them (Mendoza and Canseco), still can talk to them. It’s a big, big difference.”
“A life for a life, and that’s what we wanted,” she said. “They will not be able to go back into society and hurt anyone else.”
When it was time for the convicted killers to address the court, Canseco declined, but Mendoza asked to speak.
Mendoza’s attorney, Jeffrey Hirschfield, said his client spoke from the heart when he apologized to his own family and apologized to the Prater family.
Hirschfield said Mendoza was remorseful for the killing, but the judge reportedly criticized Mendoza when he was done speaking, because he spoke to his own family before he addressed his apologizes to the victim’s family.
Prosecutor Thomas Testa said he was told after the sentencing that Mendoza showed his true feelings about the killing while he was lead out of the courtroom. Testa said members of the Prater family told him that Mendoza turned to them as he was walking out and said, “At least I’m still breathing.”
Testa said half of the Prater family remaining in the courtroom at the time heard Mendota’s comment.
Prater’s mother said she didn’t hear Mendoza, because she had been focusing on her son’s belongings that were handed back to her by Testa after being used as evidence.
“I heard my sister say, ‘Shut up,’” Prater said, “and she told me he sneakily said, ‘At least I’m still breathing.’ No remorse … a sick mind.”
Hirschfield said he wasn’t aware of the comment. He said he had a difficult time believing Mendoza had said it.
Canseco’s attorney, Lance Jacot, was not available for comment.
Evidence presented during the trial showed Mendoza and Canseco had conspired to rob Prater of his jewelry, which was estimated to be valued at $2,000.
Witnesses testified on the night of the shooting that Canseco lured Prater to drive with Prater’s girlfriend, Keisha Anderson, to the western end of Sixth Street to pick up Mendoza.
After Mendoza got into the backseat with Canseco, a third man, identified by investigators as Jason Stancampiano, emerged from the bushes and pointed a gun at Prater’s chest and demanded his jewelry.
Anderson said Prater was held down by Mendoza and Canseco as he fought with the gunman.
Prater was shot once in the chest. He died a short time later at a regional hospital.
Tracy police arrested Canseco the day after the shooting, but it wasn’t until October 2011 that Mendoza was brought into custody by a fugitive task force. He had to be extradited to the United States from Mexico, where he had been reportedly hiding after the killing.
According to Testa, the case is not over because the shooter, reportedly 20-year-old Stancampiano, is still free.
“I really want the big fish — the shooter, the guy with the gun,” Testa said. “I’m feeling incompleteness. There’s a measure of justice, but not a full measure. The other shoe has to drop. Tracy police are doing their best (to find him).”
Testa said when Stancampiano is arrested he will likely have to make a deal with either or both Mendoza and Canseco to get them to testify against Stancampiano.
Prater agreed with Testa that authorities need to find her son’s shooter.
“Now I can devote my time into thinking of ways to get this other one caught,” she said. “I’m not done. Now I can focus on him.”
Tracy police officials were not available for comment regarding the Stancampiano investigation.