Santa Rosa, CA – February 11, 2020 – Defendant Ricardo Puentes II was sentenced on February 10, 2020, by the Honorable Patrick Broderick to serve 74 years-to-life in state prison for the murder of Semere Girmai, and the attempted murder of Rafael Chavez after having been found guilty by a jury in June of 2018.
During a two week long trial, jurors heard evidence that on January 15, 2005, Puentes walked into a home where Girmai was present at a gathering. Puentes was accompanied by another man who had had prior disagreements with Girmai. Shortly after entering the residence, Girmai made a comment and Puentes responded by shooting him multiple times, killing him. Puentes then turned the gun on Chavez, who was sitting at the same table as the deceased. Puentes then fled the area and evaded law enforcement for twelve years before finally being apprehended in Shasta County.
At trial Puentes testified that he was fearful and acted in self-defense at the time of the shooting. Ultimately, the jurors rejected his testimony and convicted him of killing Girmai and attempting to kill Chavez.
At the sentencing hearing the court recounted the facts of the case and commented on “the eruption of [and] the magnitude of the violence that took place” almost immediately after Puentes entered a stranger’s home. Despite Puentes having had time to reflect on what his actions were going to be that night, he nonetheless committed the offense. The court further noted that Puentes’s actions didn’t just affect him, but they also deeply affected the surviving victim, both of the victims’ families and others who were in the home that night. Girmai’s family had a victim impact statement read to the court which expressed that even 15 years after the killing, the incident cut a wound into their family and their community so deep that it still affects them today. The young woman at whose home the shooting occurred also addressed the court stating that she still had nightmares about the murder.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorneys Tania Partida and Matthew Henning, assisted by District Attorney Investigator David Lundgren. Santa Rosa Police Chief Rainer Navarro headed the investigation.