Concord man sentenced to life for killing teen to join MS-13

Concord man sentenced to life for killing teen to join MS-13

MARTINEZ — A 24-year-old Concord man was sentenced Friday to 45 years to life for murdering a 17-year-old boy and shooting a woman weeks earlier, crimes both intended to impress MS-13 members into letting him join the gang.

Kristhiam Uceda was sentenced by Judge John Kennedy in a Martinez courtroom Friday, but not until after Uceda heard from family members of his victim, 17-year-old Lawrence Janson. Uceda was convicted in March of second-degree murder and assault with a firearm in the two shootings.

“He was such a good kid. He was a really good kid. He didn’t deserve what happened to him,” Janson’s mother said in a courtroom victim impact statement. “He would’ve gone far in this world but you took that from him for no reason at all.”

Janson’s father lamented that, “This will never heal for me,” but said he’s happy to never have to return to court to see Uceda again. Glancing toward the defendant, Janson’s father then said that he felt like jumping over a courtroom barrier and “snapping your (expletive) neck,” but quickly apologized for the remark.

“It’s just anger,” he told Kennedy. “That was my baby boy.”

Uceda didn’t many any statement, other than saying, “No,” when Kennedy asked if he had anything to say.

Janson was shot and killed in 2017, amid an escalating conflict he had almost nothing to do with. That year, Uceda and a group of friends were attempting to impress MS-13 members in San Francisco enough to start their own subset of the gang in Contra Costa County. That meant, according to prosecutors, seeking out perceived rivals and shooting them.

Weeks before Janson’s murder, Uceda opened fire at a group of people in a Concord park that was a known Norteño hangout. He ended up nonfatally striking an unhoused woman who suffered serious injuries.

Next, Uceda and a group of gang associates showed up at Olympic High School, where Janson was hanging out with three friends. Uceda opened fire on the group, striking Janson in the back as he ran away. The teen was able to hop a fence before he collapsed to the ground, fatally wounded. Police say Janson was not a gang member.

In 2021, Uceda was offered a plea deal for a 25 years to life prison sentence and initially agreed to it. But on the day that the deal was supposed to go through, he refused to come out of his cell and upended it, then repeated the stunt several more times. Finally, his attorney and the Contra Costa DA stopped trying to negotiate and went forward with a trial.

During the trial, Uceda’s lawyer argued the case was self-defense and that Uceda believed someone in the group was armed.

Before handing down the sentence, Kennedy called the crimes “extraordinarily dangerous and reckless” and said he was imposing a 25-year add-on to the second-degree murder case, and running the five-year prison term for the assault charge consecutively.

“The motive for this suggests an extreme danger to society,” Kennedy said.

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