Seven years after stabbing 22-year-old Baldemar Leal to death on the Westside, Andrew Baldarez was sentenced Monday to 25 years to life in state prison for gang-related second-degree murder and two 1990s felonies.
On February 22, 2009, Leal was found dead at Brownie’s Market at 435 De La Vina Street. Baldarez, then 35, told authorities he stabbed Leal several times due to Leal’s perceived “disrespect” towards former defendant Michelle Flores-Murillo, then 30, and that he did so to benefit the Westside gang, as The Independent previously reported. As the The Daily Nexus reported in 2009, a witness told authorities they saw four people assaulting one person at about 9:30 p.m. the night before Leal was discovered.
Baldarez said he “just snapped” and starting “hitting [stabbing]” Leal with a knife while he and two fellow Westside gang members — defendants David Martinez, then 21, and Jonathan Alonzo, then 20 — were hitting Leal with their hands and fists, according to a January District Attorney’s Office press release. Baldarez, who has a developmental disability, was declared competent to stand trial in 2012.
On Monday, Judge Michael Carrozzo heard no victim impact statements. “Mr. Leal didn’t have any family members there,” Senior District Attorney Hans Almgren told The Independent in a phone interview. Most of Leal’s family, he said, lives in Mexico. Leal had been a 9-year resident of Santa Barbara, but he moved to the block just two days before he was killed.
In 1992 and 1998, Baldarez pleaded guilty to separate assault with deadly weapon charges; he was sentenced to 8 and 9 years, respectively, in state prison. Each crime added 5 years to his 15-year to life murder sentence, raising his sentence to 25 years to life in state prison. “I think it’s appropriate,” said Almgren of the sentence. Baldarez was represented by criminal defense attorney Michael Carty.