Crime & Courts

January 26, 2011

18-year-old gets Hard 50 in murder case

Rogelio Soto Jr. will be 68 years old before he can even consider being paroled.

Rogelio Soto Jr. will be 68 years old before he can even consider being paroled.

A judge Tuesday sentenced Soto, 18, to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years in the 2009 murder of Arturo Moreno.

Sedgwick County District Judge David Kaufman said he found the stabbing death of Moreno to be especially heinous, violent and depraved.

Moreno bled to death after being stabbed more than 70 times over a decades-old street gang dispute, leading a jury to convicted Soto of first-degree premeditated murder.

"Certainly it was the gang lifestyle that is the foundation for this crime," Kaufman said.

Genoveva Ramos, Moreno's sister, spoke to the judge before sentencing.

"Arturo was the type of person who made sure everyone felt welcome around him," Ramos said. "I'm sure Mr. Soto would agree. Arturo invited him in, not knowing it would cost him his life."

Soto was 16 at the time of killing but prosecuted as an adult. Moreno had been drinking with some boys at his apartment when witnesses said Soto attacked him.

Soto gave no reaction to the sentence.

Normally, inmates with a life sentence earn parole consideration after 25 years. The hearing over whether Soto should get the so-called Hard 50 lasted two days.

Defense attorney Kate Zigtema argued that because of Soto's age, he shouldn't receive the harshest sentence under the law.

"All we're asking you to do is give him a chance to rehabilitate himself," she said. "Give him a chance at a life."

Zigtema pointed out that Soto grew up in the Planeview neighborhood, was bullied in school and beat up into joining a gang.

Prosecutor Justen Phelps said Soto had repeatedly been involved in gang violence.

On Monday, Wichita police detective Tom Fatkin testified that Soto was involved in the Feb. 25, 2009, car chase that led to the death of 16-year-old Yadira Villa, a junior at Southeast High School.

Soto said he was a passenger in a Lincoln Navigator chasing the car in which Villa was riding, Fatkin testified.

The chase apparently began over a text message Soto received saying there had been a fight at the school between his gang and gang members from the north side of town.

"He wears his status across his chest like a badge of honor," Phelps said of Soto's gang tattoo.

Soto was one of three people charged with Moreno's murder.

Giovanni Gonzalez was convicted last May of second-degree murder and sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.

Luis Navarrette-Pacheco, originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and aiding a felon. Sentencing is set for March 1.

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