Admitted getaway driver in Fresno murder sentenced

August 10, 2012 12:34:45 AM PDT
A man who police say was the getaway driver after a murder three years ago received his punishment Friday.

Christopher Gonzalez was sentenced to four years in prison for his involvement in the killing of beer truck driver Richard Hernandez. But Gonzalez will be a free man at any moment.

It's not often the family of a murder victim is satisfied with a suspect in the case getting out of jail shortly after sentencing.

But in this case, that short sentence is a result of testimony that helped put the killer behind bars for a very long time.

Bernice Lujan thanked the deputy district attorney moments after learning the man who police say was an accomplice to her son's murder was sentenced.

A judge did not allow cameras in the courtroom during sentencing but the emotion spilled over outside the courtroom.

"It's been hard. It's been a long two and a half years that we've gone through. My family has gone through a lot," Lujan said.

In December 2009, investigators say Richard Hernandez was gunned down as he prepared to make his first beer delivery of the day in Central Fresno. Surveillance video shows Christopher Gonzales and Joey Lopez jump into a pickup truck and slowly driving away after the murder.

During the trial, the getaway driver told the court he and Lopez were drinking and smoking meth hours before the shooting.

As part of a plea deal, Gonzalez pleaded guilty then testified against Lopez. His firsthand account of what happened was instrumental in getting Lopez convicted of 51 years to life in prison.

"I'm thankful that he cooperated, because his testimony, it meant a lot in this case," Lujan said.

"Christopher did the right thing from the get go. He shouldn't have driven away from the scene obviously but immediately after he was in police custody, he told police exactly what happened," Gonzalez' attorney Douglas Foster said.

The senior deputy district attorney says it became clear early on that Gonzalez was unaware that Lopez was going to commit a murder.

"I think we all acknowledge and the plea agreement did state, speaks for itself, that he didn't know what was going to happen but he does have some responsibility for his actions after the murder," Senior Deputy District Attorney Jeff Dupras said.

Prosecutors say there was no motive for the murder and the victim never knew the suspect who shot him twice then left the scene.

With nearly three years already served and time for good behavior, Gonzalez will get out of jail soon. The victim's family hopes he spent his time behind bars thinking about what happened and uses that as motivation to turn his own life around.


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