Monterey County

"No contest" pleas for Soledad man who shot two alleged gang members

SALINAS, Calif. - A Soledad man who authorities believe shot and killed two men because they dropped out of his gang has pleaded no contest to two counts of voluntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors say Armando Garza Canchola, 25, shot and killed Cesar Vazquez in July 2008 multiple times at close range as he sat in the front passenger seat of a Honda Accord near the intersection of North Street and Soledad Street in Soledad.

Canchola was arrested and charged, but the key eyewitness later moved to Mexico and prosecutors wound up having to drop the case as a result.

In October 2010, Canchola shot and killed Victor Martinez Soledad, 25, as he sat in a van in Soledad.

While investigating this shooting, police found more evidence linking Canchola to the 2008 homicide. He was arrested and charged for both shootings.

At a jury trial in June, the jury deadlocked and failed to reach a verdict.

This week, Canchola pleaded no contest to two counts of voluntary manslaughter and admitted the special allegations of personal use of a firearm and committing crimes in connection with the Norteno criminal street gang.

He will be sentenced to 35 years in prison in June.

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