Man ordered to spend at least 20 years in prison for ‘senseless’ killing

Oct 21, 2022, 2:57 PM | Updated: Nov 22, 2022, 11:06 pm
Hundreds of people attended a sentencing hearing Thursday for a 21-year-old man found guilty of mur...
Hundreds of people attended a sentencing hearing Thursday for a 21-year-old man found guilty of murder in connection with a 2021 shooting in Salt Lake City's Glendale neighborhood. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Hundreds of people attended a sentencing hearing Thursday for a 21-year-old man found guilty of murder in connection with a 2021 shooting in Salt Lake City’s Glendale neighborhood.

A group of people supported Alex Christopher Mendoza from the courtroom, and about 275 users logged into WebEx to listen remotely to the proceedings.

Mendoza, also known as Baby Alex, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for murder and 5 years to life for discharge of a firearm causing serious injury, both first-degree felonies. The two sentences will run consecutively.

Mendoza was also sentenced to three to 15 years in prison for discharge of a firearm causing injury and one to 15 years for possession of a weapon by a restricted person, both second-degree felonies. These sentences will run concurrently with the other two sentences.

Third District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills said she believes there are “substantial rehabilitative needs” and encouraged Mendoza to take advantage of resources at the prison.

In August, Mendoza was found guilty of all four charges in connection with the shooting death of Emilio Salazar, 28, on Jan. 9, 2021. Police found Salazar facedown in the driveway of a home he and Mendoza had been visiting. Salazar was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries.

Salazar’s family opted not to attend the hearing in person but attended online. In a letter read by prosecutor Byron Burmester, Duaine Salazar, Emilio’s father, said the family considers the entire case a tragedy. While they made the choice not to attend, the letter says, the family is united with their son against the “senseless act” that led to his death.

“We take no joy in this young man getting sentenced for a long time, or even possibly for the rest of his life. I find no joy in this, and we as a family are not rejoicing in this, as this whole story is a tragedy in every sense,” the letter said.

Duaine Salazar said his son was the joy of their family’s life. He was a triplet, he excelled at sports, he gave unforgettable hugs and he would put everyone else first.

“In every sense of the word, he was the absolute best and such an overwhelming, beautiful and strong presence to have been blessed with for such a short time. He will live in each of our breaths forever, and to say he is loved and missed doesn’t come close to what we feel for him,” the letter said.

Brad Anderson, Mendoza’s attorney, said his client still maintains his innocence, and they plan to file a motion for a new trial soon.

Juanita Washington, Mendoza’s juvenile probation officer between 2017 and 2019, testified at the sentencing that Mendoza and his family complied with all of the probation conditions during that time. She said it was surprising to probation staff that they never had a problem and Mendoza and his parents were very involved. She said they got calls warning them of issues, but did not run into any of those issues.

Anderson explained that he wanted to call someone who is not connected to either the victim or Mendoza to testify to his character, which is why he invited Washington.

Court documents in the case said Mendoza is “well-known to law enforcement and the gang community” and had “84 involvements with law enforcement between 2013 and 2020.” The documents also said he is a suspect in other shootings and homicides.

In his letter to the court, Duaine Salzar also talked about photos of the crime scene that were shared on social media, saying he’s outraged by that action. He asked the judge to impose the largest sentence possible but said, regardless of the sentence, Mendoza will have what they do not: the ability to see his family.

Burmester said these posts, showing Salazar’s deceased body and police interviews, should not have been given to the defendant and allowed to be put on social media. He said these clearly came from the evidence files they gave to Mendoza’s lawyer.

Hruby-Mills said she was concerned about the callousness associated with these social media posts, and said pulling things back from social media is challenging but suggested Burmester file a motion to seek to address the issue.

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Man ordered to spend at least 20 years in prison for ‘senseless’ killing