Murder witness pleads no contest in Paso Robles assault case

Prison time: A participant in an alleged beating-for-hire pleads no contest in exchange for testifying in murder trial

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comJuly 8, 2013 

Christine Lee Garner stands with her lawyer Trevor Creel in July as she accepts a plea deal in the assault and robbery of Victor Hugo Sanchez, who was later murdered outside his Paso Robles home.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

A woman charged in a beating-for-hire case will serve eight years in prison in conjunction with a plea bargain that will make her a key witness in a Paso Robles murder case.

Christine Lee Garner, 25, of Ceres pleaded no contest in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Monday to robbery, conspiracy and accessory after the fact for her role in the October beating of Victor Hugo Sanchez, 37.

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office says Sanchez was the victim of a scorned ex-lover who paid $12,000 to have him beaten on two separate occasions. During the second occasion, in February, Sanchez was shot and killed outside his apartment complex.

Maria del Carmen Granados Fajardo, 50, of Paso Robles has been charged with commissioning the two crimes and is fighting extradition in Georgia. Four others, including Garner’s husband, David Rodriguez Hernandez, 37, are charged with Sanchez’s murder.

Garner, who allegedly knew of the second plot, could have faced charges in the murder case as well, but she opted for a plea deal. In exchange for that deal, she will be expected to testify in the murder case.

According to court files, Fajardo is accused of hiring Garner, Hernandez, Garner’s sister, Crystal Lynn Garner, 26, and Crystal Garner’s boyfriend, Joseph Villarreal Jr., 24, to assault Sanchez in the fall. During the attack, Sanchez suffered a broken arm, broken nose and several lacerations.
Fajardo allegedly commissioned a second attack, which she wanted to be more severe, in February.

During the planned kidnapping and assault, Sanchez was murdered.

Hernandez, Fajardo and three additional men — Edgar Ontiveros, 18, Louis Henry Madrigal, 19, and Alejandro Anguiano, 19, all of Modesto — have been charged with the murder.

Before entering her plea Monday, Christine Garner cried as she sat in the jury box. Her attorney, Trevor Creel, said afterward that she has no history of violent crime — and that she got involved with Fajardo through her husband.

“There’s more to the story,” Creel said.

After Sanchez was killed, Garner was arrested in Mexico, where her husband is believed to still be hiding. The three other men suspected of the murder are also still at large.

Garner is set to be formally sentenced Oct. 22. With the plea, she will have two “strike” offenses on her record, meaning another serious or violent felony could result in a life prison term.

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