Los Banos man convicted of attempted murder in shooting of stepfather

vpatton@mercedsun-star.comFebruary 14, 2013 

A Los Banos man accused of shooting his stepfather during an argument over $1,600 was convicted Thursday by a Merced County jury.

It took a little more than two hours for jurors to find Alejandro Sanchez, 33, guilty of attempted murder in the Feb. 1, 2012 shooting of Rito Ramos, 45, at a residence in the 300 block of Pomelo Avenue.

Ramos is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28 to 40-years-to-life in prison by Judge Mark Bacciarini.

Deputy District Attorney David Sandhaus said the case "tragic," saying his thoughts are with Sanchez's parents. "It must have been really traumatic for them to have to testify against their own son in this case and my heart goes out to them," Sandhaus said.

The defendant already had a prior strike on his record for an assault conviction, where he cut his mother’s face with a box cutter, Sandhaus said.

According to Los Banos police, officers responded to the scene at 5:44 a.m. for a report of shots fired, and found the victim with gunshot wounds to his upper body. Ramos, who survived, identified his stepson, Sanchez, as the shooter. Police reported arresting Sanchez as he was trying to flee the area.

Sandhaus said the defendant, who lived with his parents, had apparently owed his stepfather $1,600. The pair had been in an argument over the money. During the argument, Sanchez asked Ramos "Are you threatening me?" Ramos answered affirmatively, and the Sanchez pulled a gun and fired.

Sandhaus said the defendant kept firing at the victim even when he was on the ground, shooting him five times. Ramos testified the defendant also put the gun to his head and fired, but the bullet scraped by the victim's head. "He's a lucky guy to be alive," Sandhaus said of Ramos.

During closing arguments Deputy Public Defender Michael Coughlin, Sanchez's attorney, told jurors there was a lack of physical evidence against his client. For example, Coughlin said fingerprint tests taken from the gun were inconclusive, and there's also no DNA evidence against his client.

Coughlin also told jurors if his client did pull the trigger, he did so impulsively and without careful consideration of the consequences -- but not with premeditation, as the prosecution alleged.

Sandhaus countered during his rebuttal that in order for the defendant to be not guilty, both of his parents would have to be lying. "It's heartbreaking to (the defendant's parents), but they feel their son has to take responsibility for his actions," Sandhaus said.

Sanchez was on parole at the time of his arrest, according to police. He’ll be eligible for parole after serving 85 percent of his sentence.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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