The 28-year-old Tracy man was fatally shot once in the neck when he stopped his Dodge Neon at a traffic light at the intersection of Tracy Boulevard and Whispering Wind Drive around 2 p.m. Feb. 24, 2012.
Daniel Batchelder, 20, and Francisco Limon, 17, both of Stockton, each reached plea agreements with the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office for their alleged role in the killing.
Limon reportedly shot Cruz-Espino from the backseat of Batchelder’s car when he pulled up next to the Neon.
Cruz-Espino was pronounced dead at a regional hospital a short time later.
The letters were part of a scheduled sentencing hearing, however formal sentencing was postponed until June 24. The victim’s family members were still allowed to read their statements because they were too emotional to return.
At the June hearing, Limon is expected to be sentenced to 31 years in prison for charges of voluntary manslaughter, and enhancements for gang activity and use of a gun.
Batchelder will likely be sentenced to 15 years in prison for charges of attempted murder and an enhancement for using a gun during the commission of a felony.
The first letter, written in Spanish, was read by the victim’s mother, Teresa Espino.
Cruz-Espino’s sister-in-law, Erica Chavez, interpreted the letter, which sought answers for the killing.
“I have many questions, because of what they did,” said the sister-in-law as she read the letter. “If they can tell me, please tell me. They think they did something cute. They have taken the life of a person that is very dear. I still can’t understand why this horrible thing happened.”
Chavez was overcome with grief and the court interpreter translated the remainder of the letters from the victim’s sister and father.
“It’s wrong,” wrote Cruz-Espino’s sister. “I am not in agreement with the number of years that is being handed down. I would like to see them do life in prison so they can rot in there.”
The victim’s father, Ramiro Cruz, called the day his son died “the saddest day in his life.”
“They destroyed our lives and we’ll never recover from this,” he wrote. “We’re all suffering. I don’t think their punishment is sufficient for what they did. Why not leave them in prison for the rest of their lives? They deserve to never come out of prison.”
After the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Mark Ott said after the hearing hallway that the defendants deserved more prison time, but he felt the final sentence agreement was a fair resolution.
“Nothing I do will ever bring back the victim of a homicide,” he said.
A formal sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on June 24 in Department 14.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.