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Man Sentenced in Santa Monica Teen's Murder


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By Lookout Staff

October 15, 2018 -- A Santa Monica man found guilty of shooting to death a recent Samohi graduate last year was sentenced Friday to 40 years to life in prison.

The sentencing comes nearly two months after a jury found Sherwin Mendoza Espinosa, 43, guilty of the murder of 18-year-old Juan Castillo on February 26, 2017 ("Santa Monica Man Found Guilty of Samohi Grad's Murder," August 22, 2018).

Espinosa was found guilty of second degree murder, but he was acquitted of the more serious charge of first degree murder.

Prosecutors said the two men -- both Santa Monica residents -- had a brief run-in before Espinosa retrieved a gun from his car on the 2100 block of Pico Boulevard.

"As the victim was attempting to leave in a car, the defendant fired at the vehicle and hit the teenager in the head," prosecutors said in a statement issued Friday.

Castillo was found at around 5 a.m. that morning lying just outside the emergency room of UCLA Medical Center along 16th Street -- about a mile from the scene -- with a gunshot wound to the head.

It does not appear Espinosa and Castillo knew each other, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.

The shooting stemmed from a chance encounter between the men that led to a brief argument, the DA said.

Castillo was being driven home from a party, according to Castillo's father.

A friend who was in the car panicked and drove the victim's body to the second location, where he dropped him off, DA officials said.

The body was spotted by a man walking back to his car who took pictures with his cell phone and called police.

Castillo had graduated months earlier from Samohi where he played football. The school has retired his number.

Prosecutors praised Santa Monica detectives who tracked the two cars using video taken from surveillance cameras and passing city buses.

Like most suspects charged with Santa Monica's most violent crimes, Espinosa had a felony record ("Suspects in Santa Monica's Most Violent Crimes Were Repeat Offenders," March 13, 2018).


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