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Accomplice in killing gets up to 30 years in prison

The accomplice to a fatal shooting outside the downtown Salt Lake Sears store was sentenced Monday to up to 30 years in prison for his role in the slaying of Diego Mendoza, 16, along with another, unrelated felony.

Alexis Rodriguez, now 18, was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison for attempted murder, a second-degree felony, for his part in the shooting death of Mendoza on Jan. 6, 2008.

Although Rodriguez was 17 at the time, he was prosecuted as an adult. He originally was charged with murder, a first-degree felony, and discharging a firearm from a vehicle, a third-degree felony, but he pleaded guilty to an amended charge in the Sears case in June as part of a plea bargain.

Third District Judge Robin Reese on Monday also sentenced Rodriguez to another term of up to 15 years in prison on a different charge — attempted aggravated robbery, a second-degree felony — for a crime that occurred in 2007. The judge ordered the sentences to run consecutively.

The teenage victim, Diego Mendoza, was shot four times in the back and neck by Rodriguez's cousin, Luis Salazar Mendoza (no relation to the victim), according to testimony presented at a 2008 preliminary hearing.

In addition, Luis Salazar Mendoza shot and wounded Eder Orona, 23, and fired at another man, Joel Mendoza (who is the brother of the slain teen but no relation to the defendants), near a popular taco stand in the store parking lot at 800 S. State.

Luis Salazar Mendoza pulled a .40-caliber Glock and began shooting after an argument broke out among the men and boys over questions about gang affiliations and various verbal insults, according to preliminary hearing testimony.

Reese in March sentenced Luis Salazar Mendoza to 21 years to life in prison for aggravated murder and nine years to life in prison for attempted murder with injury, both first-degree felonies. Those prison terms also were ordered to run consecutively.

A third individual, Michelle Ramirez, who was the get-away driver, previously was sentenced to 78 days in jail and was deported.

e-mail: lindat@desnews.com