Secret sex offender's murder leads to 80 to life in prison

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An extreme punishment for an extremely brutal crime. The man convicted of stabbing a drinking buddy after discovering a dark secret is headed to prison for 80 years to life.

A jury convicted David Barrera of first degree murder last month, along with Patricia Perez.

The jury never heard this, but Barrera had five violent strikes before this crime. In fact, the judge said Wednesday it seemed like his whole life was leading right up to this murder.

His long life of crime will come to an end in prison because of what happened in a Southwest Fresno neighborhood.

Before his final act on the outside, David Barrera's past included an assault with a deadly weapon, a prison break, and an armed robbery.

"He's been no angel in his prior, in his life," said his defense attorney, Gerald Schwab. "He hasn't been an angel, but just because you have prior strikes or you have a past doesn't mean you're guilty of this crime."

But a jury believed Barrera and Patricia Perez were guilty of murdering Lawrence Ballesteros in Sept. 2012. And the victim's past was their motive.

Ballesteros was a registered sex offender -- a dark mark he kept secret from even his closest friends, like Perez, who was his drinking buddy and landlord.

But not long after a U.S. Marshals sweep -- caught on camera -- brought his past to light, surveillance video from a nearby Army Reserve center showed someone in a pickup truck dumping his body. He'd been stabbed nearly 60 times. Barrera admitted the truck was his, but his attorney says it doesn't make him a murderer.

"He was disappointed (with the verdict)," Schwab said. "He felt he was an accessory after the fact and I believe that's what the facts showed."

Barrera chose not to speak at his sentencing Wednesday. His victim's family chose not to even attend the sentencing as they try to leave the crime in the past.

"They were very pleased to put this part of their loved one's death behind them and start to move on and heal," said prosecutor Jeff Dupras.

Perez was sentenced to 26 years to life on her murder conviction, which is the standard for first degree murder with a knife. Unlike Barrera, she had no prior strikes.
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