Ex-Kern County correctional officer’s murder conviction upheld for shooting estranged wife’s lover

Crime Watch

Rigoberto Sanchez, file image

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County correctional officer who gunned down his estranged wife’s lover and also fired at her will continue serving a life sentence after an appellate court upheld his convictions for murder and attempted murder.

Rigoberto Sanchez, 44, shot and killed 33-year-old Edwin Lima through the master bedroom window of Sanchez’s wife’s northeast Bakersfield apartment in 2017. Sanchez claimed he fired in self-defense.

Sanchez, his wife, Sandra Sanchez, and Lima all worked as correctional officers at California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi.

On appeal, Rigoberto Sanchez contended prosecutor Gina Pearl committed error during her closing argument by telling the jury that defense counsel had repeatedly lied.

The 5th District Court of Appeal, however, found that Pearl did not suggest Sanchez’s attorney, Paul Cadman, was dishonest, but that she “was plainly arguing Sanchez was lying, and defense counsel was repeating Sanchez’s lies ‘over, and over, and over.'”

The court’s ruling Wednesday says Pearl argued that Sanchez lied to everyone involved in the case.

The appellate justices also found no merit in Sanchez’s contention that Pearl attempted to intimidate potential holdout jurors by suggesting they would have to be “gullible” to believe him.

“While the prosecutor did imply Sanchez was hoping one or two of the jurors would find his testimony credible, she did not suggest they would be gullible in so doing,” the ruling says.

Other issues raised by Sanchez alleging errors on the part of the trial judge were also found to be without merit.

“Sanchez has failed to prove that any of the errors he identifies, individually or collectively, were prejudicial,” the ruling says. “We are satisfied that he received an overall fair trial.”

Sanchez is serving 80 years and four months to life in prison. He is currently held at Avenal State Prison in Kings County.

Pearl argued at trial that Sanchez fired the shots out of jealousy that his wife was moving on with her life. The two were living in separate homes at that point, and her dating another man infuriated him, the prosecutor said.

The shooting occurred about 25 minutes after Rigoberto Sanchez made a call the night of May 28, 2017, to find out if his wife and Lima were at home.

At 10:40 p.m., gunfire erupted as Lima sat on Sandra Sanchez’s bed working on a Ring doorbell camera. Sandra Sanchez rolled onto the floor and crawled to her son’s room while yelling at him to get down.

A second volley of shots was fired. Then there was knocking at the front door. Neighbors had arrived and told Sandra Sanchez the shooter had fled.

Lima was shot more than 20 times. A pathologist determined between 15 to 20 shots hit him as he lay on the ground.

Rigoberto Sanchez was arrested in Mexico weeks later. He had changed his appearance, dyeing his hair and wearing tattoo sleeves.

A jury found him guilty of all charges in September 2018.

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