FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- No justice and no deal in a Fresno double murder case that was supposed to end with a prison sentence Monday, but moved forward instead after the judge threw out a plea deal.
Someone gunned down 28-year-old Jesse Villanueva and 17-year-old Ben Romero in July 2018.
A now-21-year-old man admitted to doing it, but he took back his admission in court Monday.
Christopher Sanders was all set to go to prison for an 18-year sentence Monday after pleading "no contest" to two counts of voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm.
He had admitted to killing Villanueva and Romero outside a northwest Fresno apartment complex.
But then the judge heard from the family members left behind.
"Today is about how our justice system failed three unarmed men shot and resulted in my husband dying, as well as Boy Boy (Romero)," said Corinne Villanueva, Jesse's widow.
Mrs. Villanueva says her husband was a great father to their three kids and worked hard to become a certified nursing assistant.
She called Sanders a coward and said he's disrespected her family for more than three years now.
"Since court started we had to look at him smirk, smile, and laugh in our faces knowing what he had done," Corinne Villanueva said.
Villanueva told Judge Jon Kapetan she wasn't satisfied with the proposed punishment and the judge sided with her.
"I am no longer inclined to go along with this agreement based upon what the victims' family, through Mrs. Villanueva, is saying," Judge Kapetan said.
The victims' family members said they'd rather see the case go to trial, where a jury could find Sanders guilty of murder and send him to prison for life.
But there's no guarantee on the jury's verdict and defense attorney Miles Harris says there are details and possible defenses making this a complicated case.
"There are multiple individuals involved," Harris said. "There were altercations alleged as well."
Sanders is now due back in court next month and could be on trial early next year.
No justice, no deal in Fresno double murder case that was set for punishment
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