Crime, Fire + Courts

Man gets life term for 2006 robbery-murder

By From page A1 | March 05, 2014

WOODLAND — There was no shortage of tears in a Woodland courtroom this week, shed not only by the family of a murder victim but also the man convicted of killing him.

Relatives of Alfonso Prado wept for the loss of their son, brother and boyfriend, who on the night of June 18, 2006 — Father’s Day — was gunned down for his gold necklace at the West Sacramento bar where he worked as a janitor.

“I will never be able to trust anyone, because I keep thinking they are going to do the same thing to me that they did to Alfonso,” Zaidy Calderon, the victim’s girlfriend, said during a sentencing hearing Monday in Yolo Superior Court. “The pain kills you from inside.”

Defendant Juan Antonio Gonzales cried, too — because, he claimed, authorities framed him for the murder.

“I want to tell you that I didn’t kill your son,” Gonzales, 30, told Prado’s mother in Spanish. “They’re pointing the finger at me because I knew the guy that had the weapon. … I didn’t do it.”

Minutes later, Judge Stephen Mock sentenced Gonzales to life in prison without the possibility of parole, a punishment mandated by law in light of a jury’s Jan. 27 verdict — guilty of first-degree murder, committed while perpetrating a robbery.

Monday’s sentencing culminated a case that went unsolved for two years until a “cold hit” traced the gun used in the Prado killing to a known associate of Gonzales. A year after that, the state Department of Justice reported finding Gonzales’ DNA on a blood-smeared manila envelope that was recovered from the crime scene.

Gonzales, already serving a 22-year prison sentence for a 2007 Oakland liquor-store robbery, was charged with Prado’s murder in the fall of 2012.

In an interview last week at the Yolo County Jail, Gonzales claimed he was wrongly accused because of his past dealings with a man named Tommy Spencer, the last person to be associated with the 9mm handgun used to kill Prado.

Gonzales admits he committed the Oakland robbery with Spencer, who died after being shot by the store clerk, and that the two men had a history involving marijuana sales.

But he also insists authorities improperly stored and possibly damaged the crime-scene evidence that yielded his DNA, and that his attorney failed to pursue his own DNA testing or hire an expert to refute the prosecution’s case.

“How do you get a fair trial with that?” Gonzales said. “My voice was not heard at all.”

Gonzales’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt, declined to comment on the claims, citing his pending appeal of the murder conviction.

“Issues that were raised at trial will be addressed in Mr. Gonzales’ appeal,” Van Zandt said.

As for allegations of evidence tampering, “I don’t think there’s any evidence to support that,” said Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral, who prosecuted the homicide case. Regardless of where the envelope was stored, “it doesn’t alter the DNA. It’s either there, or it’s not.”

“Justice has been served in this case,” added Cabral, who during Monday’s victim impact statements could be seen wiping away tears of his own.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

Lauren Keene

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