PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona man was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday in the killing of his 6-year-old nephew after the child witnessed his father's shooting death.
Authorities say 24-year-old Christopher Rey Licon fatally shot his half brother, Angel Jaquez, in a 2010 drug dispute and killed his nephew, Xavier Jaquez, out of fear that he would snitch because the child heard or saw his father die.
Licon was convicted of murder in both killings. A jury had previously spared him the death penalty and instead sentenced him to life in prison, though it was up to a judge to later decide whether he would become eligible for release after serving 35 years.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens balked against the more lenient option and ordered Licon to spend the rest of his life in prison. She also sentenced him to an additional 36 years in prison in his brother's killing, the kidnapping of his nephew and for other convictions in the case.
Investigators say Licon killed his brother at their Phoenix town house, kidnapped the child and shot him 20 miles away in an alley. The boy was still wearing his school uniform and a Burger King kid's meal was nearby when his body was found by sanitation workers.
Licon mounted an unsuccessful insanity defense that would have spared him a prison sentence and sent him to the state mental hospital for the rest of his life.
Licon's lawyer had contended his client was in the throes of a psychotic episode on the day of the deaths.
A prosecutor had argued that Licon was well-aware of his actions when he carried out the killings and took steps to protect himself, such as breaking into an apartment to stash the handgun used in the crimes.