Man sentenced to 32 years to life for stabbing pedestrian to death in Home Gardens

By in Press Enterprise on December 30, 2017

By City News Service

BANNING — A Home Gardens man who fatally stabbed a pedestrian during an attempted robbery outside an apartment complex was sentenced Friday to 32 years to life in state prison.

A Banning jury last month convicted 21-year-old Michael Damion Medrano of first-degree murder, assault resulting in great bodily injury, two counts of robbery and a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony for the slaying of Rafael Pochoteco.

A Riverside County Superior Court judge imposed the sentence required by law.

Medrano’s co-defendant, now-18-year-old Joel Lopez, is charged as an accessory to murder.

He’s being held at Riverside Juvenile Hall and is expected to be tried in the next several months. The District Attorney’s Office wants to prosecute him as an adult, even though he was 17 at the time of the crime.

According to sheriff’s investigators, Medrano and Lopez were walking the streets of Home Gardens on the night of March 21, 2016, targeting undocumented migrants to rob.

Medrano held up two men at knifepoint before encountering Pochoteco in front of an apartment building in the 13300 block of Magnolia Avenue, just southeast of Corona.

Investigators said the defendant brandished a knife and demanded that the victim empty his pockets, but Pochoteco put up a fight and Medrano plunged the knife into the victim’s right side, puncturing his lung.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Rob Thompson said deputies arrived within minutes and found the victim mortally wounded. He died en route to a hospital.

Relying on evidence left at the scene, including blood-streaked footprints, investigators tracked down the two defendants, who were arrested without incident hours later.

Medrano had no documented prior felony convictions. No background information was available regarding Lopez.

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