Former Calif. CO convicted of murder in slaying of fellow CO

Rigoberto Sanchez killed his colleague, Edwin Lima, when he found out Lima was having an affair with Sanchez's estranged wife


By Jason Kotowski
The Bakersfield Californian

KERN COUNTY, Calif. — A Kern County jury found a Tehachapi prison guard guilty of first-degree murder Friday morning in the slaying of his estranged wife's lover.

The jury also convicted 40-year-old Rigoberto Sanchez of attempted murder and the three other felonies. He faces 79 years to life in prison.

Sanchez gunned down 33-year-old Edwin Lima when he fired through the master bedroom window of his wife's northeast Bakersfield apartment the night of May 28, 2017.

Lima was struck 17 times.

Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman, Sanchez's attorney, said he believes his client will get the convictions overturned on appeal.

"While we respect and accept the verdict in this case, we feel strongly that the appeals process will ultimately reveal this to be a wrongful conviction."

Prosecutor Gina Pearl said, "We're very pleased with the verdict and the victims' families are grateful."

Sentencing is scheduled Oct. 17 before Superior Court Judge Gary T. Friedman.

Sanchez claimed at trial he fired in self-defense. He said Lima had pulled a gun and was raising it at him when he unleashed the barrage of bullets.

He said his wife then picked up the gun Lima dropped after being hit and raised it, and he fired at but missed her.

Sanchez, his wife and Lima all worked as correctional officers at California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.

The prosecution described the killing as a cold-blooded murder fueled by Sanchez's jealousy over his wife moving on with her life following their separation.

The jury returned its verdicts around 11 a.m. Friday. It had been deliberating since Wednesday afternoon.

Pearl told jurors Sanchez's actions both before and after the shooting were those of a guilty man.

Before the killing, he packed some belongings and placed him in his stepdaughter's vehicle — which Pearl said he used that evening to help avoid detection by police who were looking for him in connection with a burglary he earlier committed at his wife's apartment.

Sanchez dropped of a gun at his parents' home, keeping another gun that could hold more bullets. He then spoke with his stepson, who lived with Sanchez's wife. He told the stepson not to stay at the wife's apartment that night.

After the shooting, Sanchez fled to Mexico. He stayed at an uncle's home before Mexican authorities tracked him down weeks later.

Cadman argued Sanchez went to the apartment the night of the shooting following a 40-minute phone call with Lima in which they had a heated exchange and traded insults. Lima made vulgar comments about carrying on a relationship with Sanchez's wife.

The public defender said Sanchez had no intention of killing Lima when he arrived. Lima refused to fight, and Sanchez began walking away when Lima made a crude comment about Sanchez's stepdaughter from the bedroom window, Cadman said.

Sanchez then hurled a cinder block through the window in anger, according to Cadman. Lima began raising a gun, and Sanchez shot him first.

That entire scenario is a fabrication, Pearl told the jury. She said Lima never made the remark. In fact, he was inside the bedroom with Sanchez's wife, Sandra Sanchez, and neither of them had any idea her husband was outside.

Rigoberto Sanchez threw the cinder block so he could knock aside the drawn blinds and have a clear shot at his victims, she said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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