Man sentenced for murder of 18-year-old college student in Madera County

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A Madera County judge sentenced Esteven Rodriguez to nearly 65 years to life on Monday. Authorities say he murdered Drakkar Lewis. (KFSN)

A Madera County judge sentenced 22-year-old Esteven Rodriguez to nearly 65 years to life on Monday. Authorities say he murdered Drakkar Lewis, who was an innocent 18-year-old.

Lewis was a college student with dreams of becoming a police officer or joining the military before he was shot three times in the back of the head. It happened while he was sitting in a car outside a party in Madera County two years ago. On Monday, his mother spoke to the man found guilty of pulling the trigger.

"You took my son away from me, my first born, my only son. Did you even know him?" said Raelena Lewis.

Prosecutors say Rodriguez is a gang member who committed the murder as an act of revenge. His friend was shot and killed during a party Lewis hosted at the house he shared with his grandfather.

"It's been difficult on everybody because I miss Drakkar every day. Every time I'm at the house I walk by and I see something that reminds me of him, and it's hard, it's hard. He was only 18 years old," said Tom Bertrand, the victim's grandfather.

Lewis spoke to Action News the day after the initial murder and was killed weeks later. But Rodriguez insists he had nothing to do with the teen's death and was only convicted because he didn't take the stand in his own defense.

"I just want to say that I feel for the family, but I didn't do this," said Rodriguez.

The judge disagreed and denied a motion for a new trial based on the evidence. He then sentenced Rodriguez to 64 years and eight months to life in prison -- a move that brings some closure to Lewis' family.

"I have good memories of him. I've got things in the house. His room is still just like it was; I haven't even had the heart to clean it up yet, and now maybe I will, maybe I will," said Bertrand.

Rodriguez will have a chance to appeal, but for now, Lewis' family says justice has been served.
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