One victim was a talented East Bay musician who toured with artists including Lauryn Hill. The other was a high school graduate from Santa Rosa who helped support his sister's children.
Raul Vega, a 21-year-old Santa Rosa man, killed them both, a year apart, in separate gang-related attacks linked to an ongoing turf war.
A judge Monday sentenced the young man known on the streets as "Crime Time" to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"My brother . . . he was everything to me," said Maria Esparza, the sister of victim Juan Carlos Angel-Esparza, 20, at Vega's sentencing. "I was a single mother for a while and he was the only one I could count on to help me feed my kids."
Vega was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for killing Esparza in a 2011 knife fight on the grounds of Kawana Springs Elementary School. The two squared off when Vega showed up in enemy territory.
He was convicted of first-degree murder for the slaying a year earlier of bass player Dewey Tucker, 24, of Vallejo. Prosecutors said Vega and three other gang members drove to an East Bay apartment complex to avenge a threat. Vega mistook Tucker for a rival and shot him as he drove on Interstate 80 to band practice.
Vega received life without parole plus a 25-year enhancement for killing Tucker. He got another 12 years for Angel-Esparza's death.
Judge Dana Simonds handed down the punishments after Tucker's family screened a short video of the accomplished jazz player that was set to his music and showed him touring with Hill and musician Bobby Brown. Angel-Esparza's sister made a tearful speech in which she recounted running to her fallen brother and watching him die.
"It just broke my heart," she said.
Tucker's mother and fiancée hugged prosecutor Bob Waner after the hearing.
"I think it was just," said the mother, Shirley Tucker, as she left the courthouse.
Vega showed no emotion as he listened to the video and speeches, turning his head to look directly at family members. Moments before sentencing, he lodged a motion to relieve his attorney, Kathleen Hernandez, but it was denied.
He did not speak, but his lawyer called the case a "tragic situation for three families." A group of Vega's relatives sat quietly in the back of the court.
Vega was one of four defendants charged in Tucker's death. Two of them, Javier Carreon-Lopez, 22, and Hector Barragan, 30, both of Santa Rosa, entered plea bargains with prosecutors and are no longer in custody.
The third, Christopher "Spider" Mancinas, 31, was acquitted by a jury of murder in Tucker's death but found guilty of participating in a gang. With other charges, he faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled.
You can reach Staff WriterPaul Payne at 568-5312or email@example.com