Man who shot and killed another outside Ferndale party in January sent to prison

  • In US
  • 2022-11-24 13:00:00Z
  • By Bellingham Herald mcclatchy articles

A Whatcom County Superior Court judge threw out an agreed recommended prison sentence Wednesday for a man convicted of shooting and killing another at a late January gathering in Ferndale, and instead sentenced the man to the maximum time in prison.

Miguel Angel Miranda, 24, was sentenced Wednesday, Nov. 23, to 21 years and two months in prison, with three years probation. Miranda pleaded guilty Oct. 6 to one count of second-degree murder, one count of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and one count of witness tampering for the Jan. 23 death of 28-year-old Jose Esquivel Hernandez.

As part of his sentencing, Miranda will be required to register as a felony firearm offender and will pay $11,043.08 in restitution. A no-contact order was also put in place between Miranda and Hernandez's family for 20 years.

Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorneys in the case asked Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Evan Jones to sentence Miranda to an agreed recommended time of 16 years in prison at Miranda's sentencing hearing.

Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ben Pratt cited several reasons why both prosecuting and defense attorneys came to an agreed recommendation of 16 years in prison for Miranda. Pratt said that Miranda fled the state immediately after the murder and intimidated witnesses by releasing unredacted police reports, identifying at least one key witness in the case, to the public. Pratt said it was not clear how the altercation in January occurred and noted that Miranda was taking responsibility for the murder.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors also dropped gang affiliation and firearm enhancements on Miranda's charges. Miranda is a known gang member, according to court records.

One of Miranda's defense attorneys, Jason Smith, also asked the judge to follow the agreed sentencing recommendation. Smith said the resolution in the case won't bring Hernandez back, but said by Miranda accepting responsibility and accountability for his actions, he hoped it would bring some peace to Hernandez's loved ones. Smith said he didn't believe Miranda intended to kill Hernandez, and said he thought the recommended time was a fair resolution in the case.

Changed lives

But family members and friends of Hernandez who spoke Wednesday morning all asked the judge to sentence Miranda to the maximum amount of time allowed.

Janae Banuelos, Hernandez's fiancee, said she and Hernandez were together for nearly 17 years, and that he was her best friend, soul mate, protector and father of their young child.

Banuelos said Hernandez worked hard to live a good and honest life. She said the pair were happy and looking forward to what the future held for their family, including Hernandez teaching their son to ride a bike and snowboard.

Banuelos said Hernandez was brutally murdered in front of his friends and family while at a child's large birthday party in Ferndale and that her family's lives changed within a matter of hours that night. Instead of picking out a wedding dress and decorations, Banuelos picked out Hernandez's burial attire, music and photos for his memorial.

"Why should I have to live the rest of my life with a huge void in my heart and my home and in my life? ... The loss of Jose devastates me - it shattered my world," Banuelos said.

Knowing Miranda would be released as soon as her son became a young man made her sick, Banuelos said, and she asked the judge to hear and see the family's pain.

Hernandez's sister, Lorena Esquivel, said Miranda stole her brother's life and her children's father figure.

Lorena Esquivel said Miranda had contributed harm to their community and destroyed a family in order to earn respect and points with his gang.

"This horrible crime has devastated all those who knew him. He left us not by choice, but because of a murderer's selfish act," Lorena Esquivel said of Hernandez.

Hernandez's loved ones noted Miranda's past criminal convictions and said he could have chosen to walk away instead of shooting Hernandez.

Adamaris Esquivel, Hernandez's younger sister, said she was sick of victims losing and that her brother deserved more justice from this than a minimal sentence given to his killer.

"You don't get to play God and kill someone, then go back to your life as if nothing happened. We don't get to do that. If we want to see my brother, we go to the grave site," Adamaris Esquivel said.

After hearing the emotional statements from Hernandez's family and friends, Jones, the judge, said the impacts Miranda's actions had on the community and Hernandez's loved ones were clear. Jones said Miranda's intentional decisions put him in a position where he took a life, and that Hernandez and his family didn't deserve it.

Jones ultimately decided not to follow the agreed recommended sentence for Miranda and instead sentenced Miranda to the maximum amount of time in prison allowed for his crimes. Miranda's standard sentencing range for his crimes was between 12 years and 10 months up to 21 years and two months.

Jones sentenced Miranda to the full 21 years in prison.

"It was a powerful moment to witness and one that I hope brings some measure of peace to Jose's surviving family," Pratt, the prosecuting attorney, said in a statement sent to The Bellingham Herald.

The shooting

Ferndale police were called at 12:18 a.m. on Jan. 23 to the American Legion building on Second Avenue in Ferndale for the report of a shooting at a large party, according to court records and previous reporting in The Herald.

Officers found Hernandez outside the building with two gunshot wounds to his mid-torso. He was taken to St. Joseph's hospital in Bellingham, where he later died, court records show.

Witnesses told police Hernandez denied Miranda and two other people Miranda was with entry to the building and then escorted Miranda and the two people toward the parking lot, where an argument between them began, the court records state.

One of the two people Miranda was with allegedly told Miranda to pull out a gun and shoot Hernandez. Miranda pulled a black handgun from his waistband and shot Hernandez, before fleeing with the two others in a vehicle, the records show.

Miranda was arrested more than a week later in Phoenix, Arizona, after he was spotted at a known gang house and was seen with a firearm, according to court records. Miranda was brought back to Washington where, until his sentencing, he had been incarcerated in the Whatcom County Jail in lieu of $5 million bail.

Earlier this summer, Miranda received unredacted copies of a police report on the shooting, which identified a key witness in the case. Miranda released the unredacted copies to the public in an attempt to intimidate witnesses in his murder case, according to court records and the prosecutor's office. The key witness then attempted to confess to Hernandez's murder, but later declined after speaking with their attorney, who was representing them in an unrelated case, court records show.

The two people who helped Miranda escape Washington after the murder were also arrested and charged for their roles in the crime.

Marcelo Tate Rodriguez, 19, pleaded guilty Oct. 13 to first-degree rendering criminal assistance, a felony, and was sentenced the same day to six months in jail, according to court records. Rodriguez and Miranda are friends, records show.

Kimberly Trujillo Mendoza, 21, is facing one count of first-degree rendering criminal assistance for allegedly helping Miranda escape to Arizona. Trujillo Mendoza is Miranda's girlfriend, the court records state.

As part of Miranda's plea agreement, Trujillo Mendoza will be offered a reduced charge of rendering criminal assistance, a gross misdemeanor, according to court records. While the judge did not follow the recommended sentencing agreement for Miranda, Trujillo Mendoza will still be offered the lesser charge as a plea bargain, prosecuting attorneys told The Herald Wednesday.

Trujillo Mendoza's jury trial has tentatively been scheduled for Jan. 9, 2023, court records show.


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