Man convicted in Oceano drive-by wants new lawyer

Armando Yepez's sentencing in 17-year-old's murder is delayed

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comApril 30, 2013 

More than 30 of Gabriel Salgado’s loved ones waited for final closure Tuesday as the man convicted of the teen’s murder stalled his sentencing by asking for a new attorney.

Armando Yepez, 22, of Santa Maria, was expected to receive a life prison term Tuesday. Instead, he filed what’s called a Marsden motion, claiming his attorney was either ineffective or had a conflict of interest. As a result, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Ginger Garrett put the sentencing off until Thursday, after a hearing on the motion. 

Meanwhile, members of Salgado’s family — several carrying photos of the teen — left frustrated and disappointed that Yepez delayed the hearing.

“He thinks he has a chance to turn this around,” said Salgado’s father, Adrian Salgado, afterward. “He thinks he’s being wronged.”

Yepez, a former Los Angeles gang member, shot 17-year-old Gabriel Salgado on Nov. 17, 2011. The Arroyo Grande teen was standing on an Oceano corner with friends when Yepez drove past and fired into the crowd, injuring one teen and killing Salgado. During the trial, testimony showed that Yepez randomly selected victims there because he was upset by confrontations he’d had with Oceano gang members.

Yepez has already requested a new trial, which was denied. Now he’s asking to get a new attorney.

To do that, he and his attorney, Gerald Carrasco, will present arguments to the court, outside the public’s presence.

“It’s very stressful,” Adrian Salgado said. “He’s not owning up to anything at all. He’s a coward. He’s a lowlife.”

Salgado’s mother said Yepez did everything he could to get a prison term and is now seeking to avoid it. Yet, she said, she knows that Yepez will eventually end up in prison.

“I’m trying to think of it as, ‘The worst part is done,’ ” said Anna Lopez, referring to the trial.

Family members wept in December when a jury convicted Yepez of first-degree murder. While multiple survivors plan on speaking at Yepez’s sentencing, Anna Lopez said she is still deciding whether she has the nerve to speak. The teen’s father, however, said he wants Yepez to hear him.

“I don’t think he even knows what he did,” Adrian Salgado said. “He’s too stupid.”

Today, he said, he’s tortured by thoughts of his son’s final moment.

“I can’t get the picture out of my head,” he said.

Adrian Salgado, who was wearing a button with his son’s image on his shirt, said he also has a better picture of his son in his head.

“He always said, ‘Dad, I love you’ no matter what. That’s the best gift you can get.”

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