A Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge pointed out yesterday that she had no discretion when sentencing Yvan Garcia on a complicity to commit murder conviction - but also noted that a life in prison sentence was appropriate.
"This was an absolutely senseless killing," Judge Ruth Ann Franks said of the 2004 murder of Misada Shalan.
"She was living a life that was responsible. She was doing one of the most simple things we all expect to do. She was having nourishment because she was not expecting to die that night."
The last of three men convicted in the Jan. 10, 2004 death of Mrs. Shalan in a North Toledo convenience store, Garcia, 25, was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 15 years.
Additional complicity charges of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery as well as gun specifications for each charge were dismissed.
During a lengthy plea hearing July 11, Garcia admitted to driving two men in a stolen vehicle to Tamara's Carryout, 328 Columbus St., near North Summit Street. His companions - Ronald Whitfield and Pedro Diaz - entered the store with guns.
Authorities said it was the third place the trio had been to that night. Previously, they aborted plans to rob a residence because there were too many people and another carry-
out because Whitfield was friendly with the owner.
Garcia told Judge Franks at the plea hearing that he stayed in the car when Whitfield and Diaz went into the store.
Mrs. Shalan, 47, was sitting behind a counter about ready to eat her dinner of steaming rice when Diaz and Whitfield tried to rob the carryout, county Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Donovan said.
The prosecutor said Diaz fired a handgun three times into the ceiling, apparently startling Whitfield, who fired an assault rifle at the victim's head.
The victim's husband, Fuad Shalan, who managed the store, was just a few feet away.
Judge Franks noted yesterday that the three men had been together throughout the evening and that although Garcia did not enter the store, he never tried to stop the situation or leave.
She added that because of his actions, a working man was forced to watch his wife die.
Whitfield, 23, was convicted in 2004 of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and is serving a sentence of 32 years to life in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.
Diaz, 30, was convicted in 2005 of murder and aggravated robbery and is serving a sentence of 26 years to life at the Toledo Correctional Institution.
Attorney Drew Griffith acknowledged that his client's sentence was mandated by law. He told Judge Franks that Garcia was the father of a 7-year-old daughter and is expecting a second child in September.
"He essentially thought this was to be a theft. He had no intentions to shoot or kill anyone," Mr. Griffith said. "He has sympathy for [the victim] and the family. He never wanted it to happen, and regrets that it did happen."
Mrs. Shalan's family members were out of the country and could not attend the sentencing.
Garcia's family members declined to comment.
Garcia was arrested in February in Dallas after eluding authorities for four years. He avoided arrest by fleeing to Illinois, Pennsylvania, Mexico, and Texas, authorities said.
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