Fresno killer to serve two life sentences after second murder arrest

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Tuesday, August 2, 2022
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A murderer with a history of violence got rejected when he asked a Fresno County judge for a break.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A murderer with a history of violence got rejected when he asked a Fresno County judge for a break.

Philip Ozuna was the glue that kept his extended family together.

"My nephew, he wasn't a perfect person and he wasn't a saint, but he was dear to all of us," said Patricia Hurtado.

"I am scarred because he was the last thing I had," said Ozuna's nephew David Salazar. "He was my best friend. He was everything I wanted here still."

They came unglued in December 2021 when Abel Echartea shot and killed Ozuna, hitting him in the back as he ran away.

Echartea then disappeared for a month before police arrested him when he surfaced in Indiana.

RELATED: Gang member arrested in connection to December homicide in central Fresno

"I see you as being a coward and nothing more," Hurtado said.

A jury convicted Echartea of second degree murder with a gun.

Through his attorney, Echartea asked Judge Gary Orozco for lenience in his punishment, looking to strike a gun enhancement that adds a sentence of 25 years to life on top of the sentence for a murder.

But the judge noted Echartea fired several shots at a man in a vulnerable position and put several other people in danger at the Parks at Fig Garden apartment complex in central Fresno.

And it wasn't his first run-in with police.

"The defendant has a prior history of escalating violence," said Judge Orozco. "He was on supervision or parole at the time. He's been to prison."

In fact, Action News was there in June 2016 when Fresno police arrested Echartea for the shooting that killed Angelita Mendez in a car - and in front of her two children.

Prosecutors never filed a murder case against him in that case, though.

Six years later, Ozuna's family asked for the maximum punishment and got it.

"I cannot at this time forgive you," Hurtado said. "But in time, maybe I can. But at the moment, no. You will meet your maker and you will answer to him in time."

Echartea will now serve two life sentences - 15 to life for second degree murder and 25 to life because he used a gun.