SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Three men were sentenced in a Santa Barbara courtroom on Tuesday for multiple first-degree murder charges related to a string of local shootings and murders between 2015 and 2016 that were linked to the MS-13 gang.
Jose Balmore Saravia Lainez, Jose Ricardo Saravia Lainez, and Jose Narcisco Escobar Hernandez were all found guilty of multiple murder charges, along with special circumstances including conspiracy to murder and gang conspiracy charges at the end of June.
On Monday, Jose Balmore Saravia Lainez was sentenced to 385 years to life and given three life sentences without the possibility of parole, Jose Ricardo Saravia Lainez was sentenced to 439 years to life and given seven life sentences without the possibility of parole, and Escobar Hernandez was sentenced to 339 years to life and given four life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Restitution and other fines were also imposed on the men.
The Santa Barbara trial was the second of two involving 10 members of the MS-13 gang who killed nine people and conspired to murder 14 additional victims in Santa Maria and Oxnard between 2015 and 2016, said District Attorney Joyce Dudley.
The first trial against five men in Santa Maria concluded in April, with a jury finding the men guilty of the murders of the same nine victims and the conspiracy to kill the same 14 additional victims.
Each defendant in Santa Maria was sentenced to either 288 or 313 years to life in prison without the possibility of being released.
All of the men involved were arrested during the early morning hours on March 3, 2016 when a months-long investigation into the spree of murders ended in a massive sweep with over 150 law enforcement officers and federal agents executing multiple arrest warrants.
Officers and agents from Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, Kern County, and in Columbus, Ohio arrested more than a dozen people and detained roughly 40 others in what was called "Operation Matador."
In July 2016, a criminal grand jury indicted 12 defendants on 50 counts, and 10 defendants asserted their right to a trial, according to Dudley.
The Santa Barbara County Superior Court split the trial into groups of five in late 2019 because all 10 defendants could not be accommodated in one courtroom.
The first trial began in March 2020, but after only 10 days the COVID-19 pandemic put it on hold indefinitely.
The first trial re-started in Santa Maria in July 2021, and the second trial in Santa Barbara began in October 2021.