A man who was tied to a cold-case murder in Orange County by DNA on a beer can was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison, prosecutors said.
Paulino Olmos Gonzalez, 49, was found guilty in January of the drug-related killing 25 years ago of Salvador Murillo, 50, in Yorba Linda.
On a November evening in 1991, Gonzalez was driving a car with a friend, who prosecutors said was a drug dealer for a Mexican cartel, and an armed bodyguard, according to a news release by the Orange County district attorney's office. The friend spotted Murillo, asked Gonzalez to pull over, and told Murillo to get in the car.
Gonzalez drove them to an isolated orange grove in Yorba Linda. The friend, bodyguard and Murillo stepped out while Gonzalez stayed in the car. When Gonzalez eventually parked and walked toward the grove, he learned that Murillo had been shot to death, prosecutors said.
Gonzalez's attorney, Joel Garson, said his client had no idea the men were going to kill Murillo. At worst, he thought the men would beat Murillo, who they had accused of stealing two kilos of cocaine.
"The D.A.'s theory on the case was not really that Paulino had any intent to kill the guy, [it was that] he assisted in a kidnapping and the kidnapping was driving this guy against his will," Garson said.
Under California's felony murder rule, a person involved in committing certain felonies, including kidnapping, that result in a death can be found guilty of first-degree murder.
Prosecutors have said the friend Gonzalez was with has ties to the Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, according to news reports.
Police investigating the Murillo's killing found the beer can next to his body in the hours after he was found dead, prosecutors said.
It was tested in 2007 but a match was not found until 2014, when Gonzalez was convicted in Texas in an immigration-related case and required to submit DNA, according to Garson and prosecutors.