Valley man sentenced to death in 1994 double murder petitions for resentencing hearing

Kate Nemarich Image
Wednesday, February 7, 2024
Valley man sentenced to death petitions for resentencing hearing
Nearly 30 years after a Valley business owner hired a hitman to kill two teens, he's requesting a resentencing hearing.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Nearly 30 years after a Valley business owner hired a hitman to kill two teens, he's requesting a resentencing hearing. Right now, Jerry Rodriguez is on death row.

It's been decades since Richie Hernandez saw or spoke to his brother, AJ and cousin Danny. He said 19-year-old AJ and 18-year-old Danny were not just cousins, but best friends.

Richie remembers the two spending hours together and being friendly with everybody.

"Both of them had huge personalities -- joyful, funny, pranksters that really loved their trucks," said Richie Hernandez.

It was that love of trucks that put them in the path of Jerry Rodriguez. In 1994, the teens paid the Visalia tire shop owner $2,000 for custom rims for a red truck.

Instead of delivering the rims, investigators discovered Rodriguez kept the money and hired a hitman to shoot and kill the teens near Kingsburg.

Rodriguez was sentenced to death, but a state law passed in 2019 allows him to petition for a new sentence.

A resentencing hearing was scheduled for Tuesday but continued until later in the month.

More than a dozen of the teens' loved ones showed up to court on a rainy morning wearing ribbons to make it clear they won't be forgotten.

"Just to make sure justice is carried out and just so the judge, the community, and the other side can see that we're still here, we're not going anywhere, we're united, and we're here for the long haul," said Richie Hernandez.

This is the second time in months the family has fought for justice to be maintained in the murders. In August, the shooter, Stanley Michael Skala, was up for parole, which was denied.

His refusal to attend court on Tuesday as a witness led to Rodriguez's hearing being delayed.

Skala is serving his time at Centinela State Prison in Imperial County. The judge explained she would need to file a court order to compel him to appear.

The resentencing hearing is now scheduled for February 27th.

Three witnesses are set to testify in the hearing. The Hernandez family will not be asked to testify or provide statements.

Action News asked Jerry Rodriguez's family members who attended court Tuesday morning if they would like to comment and they declined.

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