Corona, CA: Cold-case murderer sentenced 22 years later

Rosemary Utesch leaned on a cane in a Corona courtroom Thursday as she told the man who killed her son 22 years earlier that the words he spoke that night had come back to haunt him.

"You spoke the last words my son heard on this earth and we know what they were. Twenty-two years later, these words have come full circle and they're right back at you," Utesch said.

Witnesses said Anthony V. Corrales, 52, of Riverside, had said, "I got you now, (expletive)" just before shooting Robert Hensley to death on Feb. 3, 1989. Corrales was sentenced Thursday to 25 years to life in prison for first-degree murder and received another 10 years for using a shotgun and other enhancements.

Hensley, also of Riverside, was shot while helping a friend repossess a truck off Tyler Street in Riverside. The truck belonged to a friend of Corrales, prosecutors said.

Corrales sat motionless in an orange jail jumpsuit during sentencing. His attorney, Public Defender Ruby Ramirez, declined to comment.

The case sat dormant for about 19 years after Riverside County prosecutors initially failed to convict Corrales. They charged him in 1989 but dropped the case after witnesses who were too afraid to testify said they could not remember what Corrales had told them about the shooting.

Physical evidence, including shell casings and a sawed-off shotgun, were not enough to prosecute, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Laura Ozols said. An eyewitness said it was too dark to identify Corrales.

Ronald Faria, who along with Hensley were trying to repossess the truck, said he heard a shot and saw Hensley fall to the ground. A man with a shotgun walked back into a house where the truck had been parked, court documents state.

Two witnesses said Corrales told them what had happened but both were afraid to testify.

Utesch persisted after the case fell apart, calling investigators every year.

"Even after calling the DA's office every year on his birthday and hearing 19 nos, I knew I just needed to find the right person," Utesch said.

On the 20th year, angry that nothing had been done to reopen the case, Utesch was searching online for then-District Attorney Rod Pacheco's telephone number when she came across the cold-crimes unit. She dialed the number, and Ozols answered.

"When she got the file in her hands, she said, 'Oh yes, this should have been prosecuted 22 years ago,' " Utesch said. "I always knew in my heart, give this 20 years, this case will go to trial. Something will change."

Something did.

One witness had moved out of the area and no longer was reluctant to testify. The other witness also agreed. Corrales' defense, that his now-dead friend had killed Hensley, did not hold up.

After the sentencing, Utesch handed Ozols a glass plaque that read "Thank you for your dedication and passion."

As she did so, Hensley's father, Mike Hensley, walked away crying.

"I never thought I would see this day," he said.

No comments: