TIJUANA (Border Report) — The three men convicted of murdering journalist Lourdes Maldonado received their prison terms late Wednesday afternoon.
Erik Contreras and Kevin Villarino got 20-year sentences, while Guillermo Castro got 24 years.
They agreed to a plea deal to avoid a trial and possibly longer prison sentences.
The trio was also ordered to pay restitution and funeral expenses to Maldonado’s family totaling almost 500,000 pesos or about $25,000.
On Jan. 23, Maldonado was murdered as she arrived home in her car; she was shot in the face once.
According to court documents, Castro pulled the trigger.
During the sentencing hearing, images recorded by surveillance cameras were shown depicting the three men waiting for Maldonado in a taxi across the street from her house.
Witnesses at the scene confirmed seeing the men in the cab waiting for Maldonado, and they reported seeing Castro walk up to her and shoot her once through the driver-side window before returning to the taxi, which drove away soon thereafter.
During the sentencing, Castro, Contreras and Villarino were described as talking among themselves and even laughing out loud at times.
They asked to be imprisoned at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana, to which the judge agreed.
Before the incident, Villarino worked as a cook, Contreras was a taxi driver and Castro worked in construction.
According to prosecutors, each received $5,000 to kill Maldonado.
During the sentencing, there was no mention of a motive or who hired them to commit the murder.
Days before her death, Maldonado won a lawsuit for back wages against her ex-employer, former Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonilla, for whom she worked years ago at his media company.
Maldonado was also the second journalist killed in less than a week in Tijuana.
Independent photojournalist Margarito Martínez was assassinated on Jan. 17 outside his Tijuana home. His body was found in the driver’s seat of his car.
Initial reports show the assailant approached Martínez from the side of the vehicle and shot him through the window.
Martínez had spent the last decade documenting and chronicling the “police beat” in Tijuana, often showing up at the scene of executions and mass killings perpetrated by drug cartels.
According to the Los Angeles Times, David López Jiménez, who goes by the nickname “El Cabo 20,” ordered Matinez’s slaying. Jiménez was taken into custody on Aug. 14 in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon.