Arivaca resident Albert Gaxiola was sentenced Monday morning to two life terms, one without the possibility of release, in the June 2009 deaths of a 9-year-old girl and her father.
Gaxiola, 44, was convicted last month of first-degree murder in the deaths of Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul Junior Flores. The jurors spared Gaxiola the death penalty for the murder of Junior Flores, but could not reach a unanimous decision as to his punishment in the girl’s death.
Rather than empanel a new jury for a new sentencing phase, prosecutors decided to leave Gaxiola’s punishment up to Pima County Superior Court Judge John Leonardo.
On Monday, Leonardo had to decide whether to sentence Gaxiola to natural life in both slayings, or to give him a chance at release after 35 years in Brisenia’s death or after 25 years in Junior Flores’ death.
The judge opted for a natural life sentence for the girl’s murder and a 25-to-life sentence for her father’s murder. He tacked 54 years onto those sentences for the attempted murder of Gina Gonzalez, the victims’ wife and mother, and for five burglary, aggravated-assault and armed-robbery counts.
After the sentencing, Gonzalez said she was “100 percent happy” with the sentence, but declined to comment further.
Prosecutors believe Gaxiola recruited Shawna Forde and Jason Bush to kill Flores, an Arivaca resident, because the 29-year-old was a competitor in the drug-smuggling business. Forde, they said, agreed to participate, hoping proceeds from the subsequent robbery would fund her Minuteman organization.
Forde, 43, and Bush, 36,were both sentenced to death row earlier this year. Leonardo sentenced Forde to 65 years on the additional charges and gave Bush an extra 78 years.
Bush, who was the triggerman, is also charged in two 1997 homicides in Washington state, but prosecutors there said have said they have no plans to extradite and put him on trial.
Bush is accused of stabbing Hector Lopez- Partida, a homeless man, to death died in Wenatchee in July 1997, and shooting Jon Bumstead, an 18-year-old white supremacist from East Wenatchee, to death in September 1997.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org