A Tucson man who shot and killed a local cab driver to get money to bail a friend out of jail was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release this morning.
Ruben Archunde, 22, was also sentenced to 34 years in prison for armed robbery and aggravated robbery, but it is to be served concurrently to the life sentence.
Archunde pleaded guilty two months ago to killing Timothy Royce, 27, but rather than have a jury sentence him, he agreed to have Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Fields decide if he should be sentenced to life in prison or receive the death penalty.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent several days presenting aggravating and mitigating evidence to help Fields decide the appropriate sentence.
The judge decided prosecutors proved "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Archunde shot Royce for money and that he did so shortly after being released from jail to the county's Pretrial Services Division on a car-theft charge.
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Prosecutors did not, however, prove that the slaying was "especially cruel, heinous or depraved," Fields said.
The judge sentenced Archunde to natural life, in part, because Archunde "was subjected to a hell on earth childhood" and was only 20 at the time of the March 2008 slaying.
Authorities believe Archunde, Marisela Pacheco and Jessica Gallegos needed money to bail Archunde's "street brother" out of jail. The man was also Pacheco's boyfriend.
Royce's body was found near his car in an alley near the University of Arizona. The defendants were arrested within a week.
Gallegos, 17 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to armed robbery and was sentenced in April to seven years in prison.
Pacheco, 31, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed robbery. She is serving a 22-year prison sentence.
Read more in tomorrow's Star