Deemed competent to stand trial for the murder of Baldemar Leal, Andrew Baldarez pleaded guilty on Tuesday to second-degree murder and admitted to two felony charges from the 1990s, bringing his expected sentence to 25 years to life in prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office. In 1992, Baldarez, who is developmentally disabled and was previously declared incompetent to stand trial, pleaded guilty to assault with a knife and was sentenced to 8 years in federal prison. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to another assault with a knife charge and was sentenced to 9 years in state prison, said Senior District Attorney Hans Almgren.
The murder conviction stems from the death of 22-year-old Leal, who was discovered unresponsive and declared dead on scene February 21, 2009 at Brownie’s Market on De La Vina Street, as reported in The Santa Barbara Independent. Baldarez, who had previously told authorities that he stabbed Leal several times, also admitted that he did so on behalf of the Westside gang and because of Leal’s perceived “disrespect” towards former defendant Michelle Flores-Murillo.
According to a District Attorney’s Office press release, Baldarez said he “just snapped” and started “hitting [stabbing]” Leal with a knife, while a group of three other Westside gangsters — defendants David Martinez, Jonathon Alonzo, and Andrew Baldarez — hit Leal with their hands and fists.
On February 29, he is expected to be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison — including two five-year enhancements for charges from the nineties — by Judge Michael Carrozzo, said the District Attorney’s Office. Baldarez is represented by criminal defense attorney Michael Carty.