Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates yesterday said a jury should have convicted Pedro Diaz of aggravated murder for his role in the shooting death of an employee at a North Toledo convenience store.
However, the jury last week found Diaz guilty of the lesser charge of murder as well as aggravated robbery in the death of Misada Shalan on Jan. 10, 2004, while she was working at Tamara's Carry Out, 328 Columbus St. Judge Bates said though Diaz didn't fire the gun that killed Mrs. Shalan, he was equally responsible in her death.
"Your attorneys pulled a rabbit out of a hat in getting murder for you because you should have been convicted of aggravated murder," Judge Bates said at the sentencing hearing.
"I have been doing this for 35 years, either as a prosecutor or a judge. I have probably handled over 100 aggravated murders. This was a total senseless and unnecessary killing, and one of the most serious offenses that I have had to personally deal with."
Diaz, 28, received the mandatory sentence of 18 years to life in prison for murder. Judge Bates also imposed eight years for aggravated robbery to be served consecutive to the sentence for murder. He will be eligible to apply for parole after he serves 26 years of the sentence.
Mrs. Shalan, 47, was sitting at a table behind the counter when Diaz and Ronald Whitfield, each brandishing a gun, entered the carryout near North Summit Street. Diaz fired a handgun three times at the ceiling, startling Whitfield, who fired a 30-caliber rifle into the victim's head.
Judge Bates said jurors told him the verdict on the lesser charge of murder was reached, in part, because of evidence that showed Whitfield may have fired the rifle unintentionally.
However, he said Diaz was just as culpable in the crime because he provided the weapons, orchestrated the holdup, and divided the money they obtained from the cash register.
"When you go into a robbery and both of you are armed, you are both responsible for the foreseeable results. You fired the weapon first, even though that wasn't the bullet that killed her," the judge said.
Diaz showed no remorse in the courtroom and denied to Judge Bates that he was responsible for Mrs. Shalan's death. He appeared to ignore the statement of Anan Hamad, the victim's daughter and only child.
Fighting back tears, Ms. Hamad told Judge Bates that Diaz and Whitfield took the most important person in her life for a small amount of money.
"I am the only child of Misada Shalan who was killed for no reason at all. She was the mother, the father, and friend. She was my life," she said. "I beg you to put some light in my dark life by giving this criminal what he deserves."
The victim's husband, Fuad Shalan, who operated the store, was several feet away when his wife was murdered. He was not present for the sentencing.
Whitfield, 20, was indicted on charges that included death-penalty specifications, but he entered into a plea agreement last year and received a 32 years- to-life sentence for aggravated murder and aggravated robbery.
A third suspect, Yvan Garcia, who police believe was the driver of the getaway vehicle, also was charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. He has not been arrested.
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