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Drug cartel hitman sentenced to life in prison

On Nov. 2, a self-described debt collector and hitman for a Mexican drug cartel was sentenced to life in prison without parole for nine California murders. The 53-year-old man confessed to killing dozens of people across the United States over the past three decades.

According to Tulare County authorities, the defendant accepted an offer from the prosecution in October that spared him the death penalty in exchange for pleading guilty to the murders of nine people. The victims, who ranged in age from 22 to 56, were shot or stabbed to death between 1980 and 2011. He admitted to shooting one man in his bed and dumping at least three shooting victims in orange groves in Tulare and Kern Counties over the years. He also pleaded guilty to murder for financial gain, attempted murder and kidnapping.

In 2013, the defendant was arrested by U.S. border patrol officers in Arizona after they discovered he was wanted for murder in Alabama. In that case, he confessed to killing a man who allegedly made a disparaging remark to his daughter and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He is also suspected of killing two people in Florida in 2006.

California residents charged with murder, homicide or other violent crimes can face severe consequences, including life in prison or even the death penalty. However, every defendant has the right to vigorously defend themselves against such charges in court. With the help of a defense attorney, it may be possible to get the charges reduced or dismissed through a successful challenge to the state's evidence. In other cases, the defense attorney may suggest entering into a plea agreement with the prosecutor that would reduce the penalties in exchange for a plea of guilty to a lesser offense.

Source: Reuters, "Drug cartel debt collector sentenced to life for California murders," Curtis Skinner, Nov. 2, 2015

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