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Gang member sentenced to two life prison terms in double-murder case

11/18/2011, 8:29 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--A gang member convicted of murdering two people in gang-related shootings about two months apart was sentenced today to two consecutive no-parole life prison terms.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito also tacked on a 130-year-to-life prison term for Juan Carlos Gutierrez, 35, who was convicted of two counts each of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during a drive-by shooting and murder by an active street gang member.

The charges stem from the Oct. 7, 2007, slaying of Stanley Garcia, 52, as he walked near Alpine Street and North Grand Avenue in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles, and the Dec. 10, 2007, slaying of Nelly Vergara, 20, as she waited at a bus stop on Venice Boulevard near Winton Place.

Vergara, who was not the intended target, was shot once in the chest and was able to run about five yards before collapsing, according to Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila.

Another man was also shot but survived.

One of Vergara's four younger sisters, Ivonne Robles, told the judge that her sibling was "a very nice girl" and was not a gang member.

"She wasn't a troublemaker," the young woman said. "She didn't deserve any of this."

Jurors deadlocked on charges involving co-defendant Amilcar Romero, 25, who is accused of being the getaway driver in Vergara's slaying. He is due back in court next Wednesday for a pretrial hearing.

Gutierrez and Romero were arrested the day of Vergara's shooting, after a monitoring ankle bracelet worn by a parolee helped to lead to the men, police said soon after they were taken into custody.