SALINAS, Calif. - The 25-year-old man who arrested then cleared in the 2008 shooting dead of a Soledad man has now been convicted in that man's death and another.
Armando Garza Canchola pleaded no contest to two counts of Voluntary Manslaughter, admitted personal use of a firearm and admitted committing his crime in association with the Norteno criminal street gang.
In July 2008, Canchola shot and killed 28-year-old Cesar Vasquez as he sat in a car near North and Soledad Streets in Soledad. The driver of that vehicle identified Canchola as the shooter but fled to Mexico before he could testify. Without a witness to identify Canchola on the stand, the charges were dismissed.
Two years later, in October of 2010, Canchola shot 25-year-old Victor Martinez in the head and upper spine on the corner of 4th and Palm in Soledad. Investigators say they believe both men were killed because they dropped out of the gang.
Investigators say as they put together a case against Canchola for the death of Martinez, they found evidence that linked him to the 2008 shooting of Vasquez as well. He was arrested and sent to trial.
Canchola was tried for the crimes in May and June of 2013, but the jury was evenly deadlocked and couldn't reach a verdict. There was no eyewitness to link him to either death.
Sentencing for Canchola is set for June 11, 2014. He's expected to spend 35 years in state prison. This is Canchola's second strike under California's three strikes law. That means he'll be required to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence.