HANFORD — A Kings County jury found Zachary Gonzalez guilty Tuesday of murdering and robbing a 25-year-old Hanford man on June 17, 2016.
Gonzalez, 22, was found guilty of first-degree murder during the commission of a robbery, robbery, and enhancements for use of a firearm causing death. His victim, Julio Gonzalez, was found shot to death in a field near 10th Avenue and Cameron Street, behind Sierra Liquor. His autopsy revealed he had been shot 14 to 15 times.
Kings County Assistant District Attorney Nick Schuller said the Gonzalez’s conviction carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Schuller said the victim’s mother, Soledad Munoz Mendez, passed out in the courtroom as the verdict was read. Hanford police officers helped Mendez back to her feet. As they escorted her out of the courtroom, Schuller said, she collapsed again.
“I went to her aid,” Schuller said. “I was down on my hands and knees telling her what the verdict was.”
Gonzalez previously stood trial in December. The trial ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked 7-5 for a conviction. Although circumstantial evidence suggested Gonzalez was the only other person in the field during the shooting, his defense attorney, Afreen Kaelble, questioned the lack of physical evidence like fingerprints or DNA.
Kaelble could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.
Schuller said the retrial offered details not presented in December. The jury went into deliberations late Friday afternoon and resumed Tuesday morning. Schuller said jurors deliberated for a total of about four hours.
“This time around we began to focus more on the timeline,” Schuller said. “It’s a tight timeline.”
Schuller said an employee from Sierra Liquor testified that a coworker went outside to smoke a cigarette around 11 p.m., about the same time a customer bought a Swisher Sweets cigar. A store receipt showed the transaction occurred at exactly 11:02 p.m.
The second employee testified that he usually took about five minutes to smoke a cigarette. Halfway through the cigarette, around 11:06 p.m., he heard gunshots. After the shots had been fired, a neighbor saw a person in the field picking something up.
Evidence presented at trial suggested that Julio Gonzalez had a wallet, cellphone, gold necklace, a rosary and a wristwatch earlier in the day. None of those items were found at the crime scene.
A second neighbor saw a man, who she later identified as Zachary Gonzalez, running south from the field and head toward a home in the 1000 block of North White Street.
Hanford Police Department dispatchers received the first of several 911 calls at 11:09 p.m.
Another Sierra Liquor employee testified that Zachary Gonzalez had showed him a 40-caliber Glock handgun months before the shooting, along with photos of an extended magazine. A forensic expert testified that the bullets used to kill Julio Gonzalez were fired from a 40-caliber or 10mm Glock.
Zachary Gonzalez was arrested on June 21 at his home in the 1000 block of White Street.
Schuller, who prosecuted the case with Deputy District Attorney Matt Darby, said the victim’s family will have an opportunity to speak during sentencing on March 15.
“We just hope it brings the family a little bit of closure,” Schuller said.