After denying Luis Sosa’s motion for a new trial Wednesday, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Frank Ochoa sentenced the convicted killer to at least 50 years in prison, finally bringing to a close a years-long ordeal for the family of the victim.
In March, a Santa Barbara jury found Sosa guilty of murder in the September 2006 death of Frank Tacadena, who was shot and killed while parked, sitting next to his wife, in his West Islay Street driveway.
Defense attorney Doug Hayes argued in a motion for a retrial that two jurors were involved in misconduct, a claim other jurors denied and which the judge dismissed. At a previous post-trial hearing, Hayes brought to the stand a man who claimed to have witnessed the shooting. The man, Francisco Reyes, said it wasn’t Sosa, but his friend and accomplice Johnny Lopez who shot Tacadena.
Hayes, throughout Sosa’s trial, maintained Lopez was the shooter, as it was his gun that was used, and he had a beef with Tacadena. Lopez testified against Sosa during the trial, subsequently pleaded to a charge of being an accessory to Sosa after the crime, and was released with time-served-meaning that the time he had already served in jail after his arrest was deemed sufficient.
Prosecutor Hilary Dozer said at the time of Lopez’s sentencing that no concessions or assurances were made in advance of Lopez’s testimony at Sosa’s trial. Despite bringing Lopez to the stand not knowing what he would say, Dozer said, Lopez’s testimony proved to be “quite important to the people’s case.” Lopez testified “without precondition,” Dozer said, and gave the jury a lot of significant details of what happened prior to and following the murder, all of which corroborated what investigators had found out. “His testimony, in essence, guaranteed a conviction for Mr. Sosa,” Dozer said during Lopez’s sentencing.
Many details in Reyes’s testimony didn’t match up with the facts of the case, among them the time of day the crime took place, the description of the vehicle, and more, and the judge decided his story had been fabricated.
After denying the motion for a retrial, Ochoa listened to the victim’s family share how their loss has impacted them. Some spoke about Tacadena’s life as a family member, and how he will never get to meet any of the family’s young ones. “I know you have to have a hard heart to murder someone right in front of his wife,” said Tacadena’s son Frank.
“What you did is unforgivable,” Tacadena’s wife, Kathy, said through tears. “You shot and killed my husband for no reason.” She told him that he should have shot Lopez because “at least that way we would’ve got two bums off the street instead of just one.”
After the hearing, Frank Tacadena said he was relieved the case was over, though sad Lopez walked free. “It doesn’t bring my dad back,” he said. “I’m disappointed that they let Johnny go. It’s on record that he had already shot somebody. He’s the one who gave the gun to Sosa.”