While insisting she was innocent, a Paso Robles woman convicted in a murder-for-hire case was sentenced Thursday to 21 years to life in prison.
A jury had previously convicted Maria del Carmen Granados Fajardo, 51, of second-degree murder, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
According to trial testimony, Fajardo paid people on two occasions to hurt her former live-in boyfriend, Victor Hugo Sanchez, 37. The second time Sanchez was attacked, in February 2013, he was fatally shot outside his Paso Robles apartment.
Because there were two separate crimes, Fajardo was sentenced to six years in prison for the first attack — five years for robbery and one year for assault — and 15 years to life for the murder conviction. The maximum she could have faced under the jury’s verdict was a total of 24 years to life.
During the trial the prosecution described Fajardo as a jealous ex-lover determined to reap revenge.
A large contingent of Sanchez’s family and friends attended the hearing. So did Fajardo’s five sisters, who were allowed to hug their sibling before she was returned to jail.
Before the sentence was read, Sanchez’s mother, Rita Sanchez, addressed Fajardo, who also goes by Carmen Granados.
“I just wanted to ask Carmen Granados, ‘Why did you do it?’” she said through an interpreter.
Victor Sanchez loved Fajardo’s children, his mother said, and they loved him.
“The sad thing is that if you would have thought more about your children, you would not have taken mine away,” she said.
Fajardo offered a quick statement.
“I’m going to maintain I’m innocent until the last day,” she said, also through an interpreter.
Deputy District Attorney Eric Dobroth said Fajardo needs to accept responsibility for her crimes and acknowledge the severity of them.
“That’s the only way she’s ever going to be rehabilitated,” Dobroth said.
Defense attorney Paul Phillips expressed sympathy for both the families of Sanchez and Fajardo.
“The victimization extends beyond the victim,” he said.
During the trial, witnesses said Fajardo and Sanchez met through a youth soccer league that Sanchez helped create. Sanchez had coached Fajardo’s sons. The couple eventually lived together for 10 years.
“She was a very jealous person,” Maria Sanchez, Victor Sanchez’s sister, told The Tribune after the sentencing. “She was always there, behind his back, watching what he did.”
While Fajardo said Victor Sanchez was abusive, his sister said she never saw examples of that.
“She’s going to try to portray him as an evil person,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. She still paints herself as innocent.”
After Fajardo and Sanchez split in 2012, witnesses said, Fajardo had friends watch Sanchez. And in October 2012, a group of people Fajardo commissioned to hurt Sanchez lured him to a rural location and beat him with a tire iron.
“After the incident happened, he feared for his life,” Maria Sanchez said.
Having suffered a broken arm and several cuts during the attack, Sanchez often avoided dark places and tried not to go out alone. He suspected Fajardo had paid people to hurt him, though he didn’t talk about it that much.
“I think he didn’t want my mom to get worried,” said Maria Sanchez, who attended the entire trial.
But soon after that attack, witnesses said, Fajardo planned another.
A key prosecution witness said a trio of teenage boys was hired to kidnap and shoot Sanchez in the knees. The teens attempted to kidnap him, according to a report by the probation department, but Sanchez refused to get into their car. He was then shot in the head and torso.
The three teens, and the middleman who recruited them, are still at large. Meanwhile, three other co-conspirators have previously been sentenced.
Maria Sanchez said she would like to hear about what happened to her brother from the failed kidnappers. But she wasn’t overly concerned with Fajardo’s words.
“I really didn’t care what she was going to say,” Sanchez said. “Nothing’s going to bring him back. He’s gone.”
Her mother, she said, gave birth to eight children, but only four survive. Including Victor Sanchez, two boys have been murdered, and a daughter died under suspicious circumstances.
Victor Sanchez, his sister said, was a helpful person who loved children.
“Whenever someone needed help, he was there,” she said.
While Fajardo had no criminal history, Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy said the evidence against her in this case was “overwhelming.”