ST. GEORGE — During a hearing held in 5th District Court, 23-year-old Victor Manuel Hernandez was sentenced to prison for an incident that left one man dead inside a mobile home off Dixie Drive in 2018.
Hernandez appeared before District Judge Jeffrey Wilcox for Tuesday’s sentencing hearing on first-degree murder. He was found guilty in September following a three-day jury trial.
Hernandez was charged with stabbing 23-year-old Luwing Leonard Lopez during an altercation that took place at Red Shadows Mobile Home Park on Dixie Drive on June 22, 2018. The two men, who were friends, were having a conversation that escalated into a heated argument, which is when Hernandez stabbed Lopez multiple times, according to police.
During questioning, Hernandez admitted to investigators that he “intentionally killed the male victim with a knife,” which was later recovered from the scene. The suspect was arrested later that same day and booked into jail, where he has remained since his arrest on $250,000 bail.
Defense attorney Ken Combs addressed the court during Tuesday’s hearing by saying that very few charges carry a prescribed sentence, but “this case is one of those.”
Combs was referring to the mandatory sentence that accompanies a first-degree murder charge, which ultimately leaves little opportunity for the judge to adjust the length of time spent in prison.
Combs went on to reiterate what was said during the trial in September: that his client’s actions were based on the belief the victim in the case was going to hurt his child and that Hernandez’s actions were in self-defense.
The attorney also asked the court to consider the fact that his client “really has no record at all.”
Prosecutor Eric Gentry also spoke during the hearing and said the jury heard the evidence and after weighing the facts of the case, they rendered their verdict and found Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder – a charge that carries only one sentence available to the court.
Gentry went on to say it is “unfortunate that no one is here to speak for the victim” in the case.
Combs closed by asking the court to grant his client credit for the more than three years his client has spent in jail, but Gentry countered the request by saying the state “would like to see Hernandez serve as much time as can be given.” He added that Hernandez did not take responsibility for his actions, thus forcing the state to go to trial.
“So that a jury of his peers could find him guilty,” Gentry said.
Wilcox then sentenced Hernandez to a term of 15 years to life in Utah State Prison, which he said is the statutory sentence for the first-degree felony offense of murder.
Wilcox also granted credit of 1,235 days the defendant has already served in jail, stating that one of the reasons he was granting the credit was due to the COVID restrictions that delayed trial for an extended period of time, “which wasn’t Hernandez’s fault,” he said.
Once the defendant has served his time in prison, Wilcox said, he will be deported to El Salvador upon his release, a recommendation that would be submitted to the Board of Pardons and Parole.
Wilcox then ordered that Hernandez be transported to Utah State Prison.
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