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Man known for both his cooking and hit man skills sentenced to life in prison

By Gheni_Platenburg
April 29, 2011 at 5 p.m.
Updated April 28, 2011 at 11:29 p.m.

Timothy "Timo" Mendoza III

Other DEFENDANTS:

Joe Brian "Turtle" Martinez Sr. and Marcus "Marque" Perez also face murder and engagement in organized criminal activity charges in Licon's death.

Timothy "Timo" Mendoza III was sentenced to life in prison Friday for murder and engagement in organized criminal activity.

On Thursday, a jury found Mendoza, 38, of Victoria, guilty of the charges for his involvement in the January 2006 stabbing death of John Gilbert Licon.

District Judge Skipper Koetter handed down life sentences for the charges, which will run concurrently.

"It was justified. He's been a violent offender since he was 16," said Victoria County District Attorney Steve Tyler. "His sentence isn't as harsh as that which he executed against John Gilbert Licon."

On Jan. 19, 2006, Licon was found lying with multiple stab wounds in a grassy field between Club Margaritas, 3711 Port Lavaca Drive, and the LC Club, 3801 Port Lavaca Drive.

During the punishment hearing, defense attorney Chris Iles filed motions for both a mistrial and a new trial.

As was the case when Koetter granted a mistrial for the case on April 6, Iles argued the new jury had also been exposed to evidence that suggested Mendoza had previously been in jail, which once again impinged on his presumption of innocence.

Iles said that during the taped interview between Mendoza and expert Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos witness Sam Eyre, who at that time was a detective with the Victoria Police Department, that was played for the jury on Thursday, his client admitted in a mumbled voice to have been confirmed into the HPL street gang while he was in prison.

"I don't believe it was done intentionally," Iles said about his client's admission being played for the jurors. "I do believe it was a prosecutorial mistake."

He went on to say, "We can't be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that it didn't affect the jury's verdict and deliberations."

Tyler, who made Iles aware of the mistake shortly after it had been made, explained that he and Eyre tried to cut out all mentions of Mendoza's prior prison record from the tape.

"We thought we had them all," said Tyler, who argued that Iles' objections to the error did not come in a timely fashion.

Koetter denied both motions.

From the stand, Licon's cousin, Laura Soto, described her cousin as a loving father of five whose gang life was so far behind him that he told his children the large HPL tattoo on his arm meant "Harry Potter lives."

"We're very pleased with the outcome. Again, it is not a victory for the family. Nobody won," said Soto. "This is just our family's way of having our questions answered and knowing what happened and it gives us a chance to move on and get on with our lives."

Still visibly upset from Thursday's guilty verdict, friends and members of Mendoza's family took the stand to praise the defendant.

"He'd always put us first," Mendoza's half-sister Priscilla Mendoza said as she described writing her brother while he was in jail when she first learned to read and write. "We've had to come together as a family to be strong for him, but he's still calling us to make sure we're OK."

Priscilla said her half-brother, who Tyler described as a hit man for the HPL, was known as the family's go-to man for barbecue.

Tyler questioned the family's constant texting and phone usage in the courtroom despite the bailiffs' warnings, as well as their attempts to intimidate witnesses by making faces and shouting outbursts at them throughout the trial.

"My brother is accused of something we don't believe is true," said Priscilla Mendoza. "I believe any other family that loves each other and are as close as we are would react the same way."

A sister, Michelle Mendoza-Cisneros, said she was sorry for Lincon's family.

"I apologize for whoever did this. I know my brother didn't do this," Mendoza-Cisneros said through tears.

Mendoza did not testify in the trial.

Iles declined to comment further.

Mendoza filed an appeal in his case Friday morning.

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