Authorities still don’t know why a Lemon Grove man got so angry after an argument that he came back and stabbed the other man to death last year.
Gustavo Flores, 39, was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison for killing 47-year-old Juan Martinez, with an additional year in prison for an unrelated, previous case involving an assault with a deadly weapon.
Flores turned himself in a week after the June 21, 2018 stabbing and pleaded guilty a year later to voluntary manslaughter and personal use of a deadly weapon.
A dozen of Martinez’ family members showed up in El Cajon Superior Court to hear Judge Robert Amador impose the sentence that was agreed upon when Flores changed his plea to guilty.
The oldest of the victim’s two teenage sons told the judge their father “was everything to us,” a man who advised them and took care of them.
“I still don’t understand why you didn’t think twice before you did what you did,” said Juan Martinez, Jr., in a comment directed toward Flores, who sat by his attorney and did not visibly react. “I wanted my father to be present to see me graduate and achieve my goals. This person took that away.”
A prosecutor said Flores was on probation for the assault case when he attacked Martinez.
Martinez, a day laborer who waited at the Home Depot for jobs, and a companion were sitting at a picnic table in a small park near the store when Flores walked past, authorities said. Martinez made some remark that sparked an argument with Flores. The onlooker separated them.
Flores returned later, shortly before 9 p.m., found Martinez near the same spot, and renewed the fight, a sheriff’s homicide lieutenant said last year. Martinez was stabbed several times in the upper body.
He staggered off and pounded on the door of a Lemon Avenue home for help, then collapsed. The residents looked outside and didn’t see anyone, but called 911 for a deputy to find out what was happening. The deputy found Martinez dead in the family’s driveway.
Investigators said Martinez was living in a car parked at a neighbor’s home. Flores lived nearby, but the two men did not know each other.
They didn’t know who was responsible for Martinez’ death until Flores went to the Lemon Grove sheriff’s station a week later to surrender. His conscience apparently was bothering him, Deputy District Attorney Brandon Owens said out of court Wednesday.
He said Flores entered his guilty plea on June 26 this year, before a preliminary hearing in which the evidence against him would have been presented to a judge.
Martinez’s sister, Maria Martinez, traveled from her home in Washington to attend the sentencing. She told the judge, “It’s difficult to be here, to know I’m close to the person who took my brother’s life. He didn’t deserve to die that way.”
The judge ordered Flores to make restitution to the victim’s family to cover $7,500 in funeral expenses.
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