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A California Man Helped Orchestrate the Murder of a Classmate to Join a Gang. Now, He's Paying the Price.

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Jun. 27 2024, Published 3:02 p.m. ET

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He murdered his classmate and maimed another. Now, he is spending the rest of his life behind bars.

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Marin County Superior Court Judge Kelly Simmons sentenced Juan Carlos Martinez-Henriquez, now 25, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder of Edwin Josue Guerra, 17. She also sentenced him to 40 years to life for the attempted murder of a second victim.

The judge ordered both sentences to be served consecutively.

In May 2016, the former Novato High School student in California lured two of his classmates to an ambush at the waterfall near the end of Fairway Drive in Novato. The move by the Salvadoran native had been an initiation attempt to join MS-13, a Latin-American gang.

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Martinez-Henriquez convinced his former classmates to hang out at the scene to smoke marijuana. Martinez-Henriquez attacked the duo with other gang members who had been hiding in the vicinity. Josue Guerra was hacked multiple times with a machete and bludgeoned with rocks.

He suffered seven blows to his head and died attempting to crawl away.


The other unnamed victim, 17, played dead after he was shot once in the head and abdomen. Reportedly, the second victim survived the ordeal since the bullet missed his vital organs. As a result, investigators identified Martinez Henriquez as one of the eight perpetrators of the brutal and gruesome attack.

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Josue Guerra came to the U.S. with his parents to escape gang violence in Central America. He has since been buried in Guatemala.

Martinez-Henriquez’s defense lawyers appealed to the court for leniency at sentencing. The request was based on Martinez Henriquez’s actions due to his youth, poverty background and living environment in a gang-infested neighborhood.

“We were hoping that the court would follow the trend in case law and brain science with regards to brain development in adolescents. Mr. Martinez Henriquez had no prior record, and there was evidence that he has post-traumatic stress disorder, Pedro Oliveros, one of the defendant's public defenders said at the time, according to Marin Independent Journal. "He has pledged to participate in therapy, counseling, educational and rehabilitative programs that the department of corrections has to offer. He will do all he can to stay positive and perhaps, one day, see the light of day beyond prison walls,”


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