Judge sen­tences con­victed killer to 40 years-to-life in prison

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - News - BY ROBERT RO­DRIGUEZ rro­[email protected]­nobee.com

A Fresno man who was 16 when he par­tic­i­pated in a 2016 botched rob­bery­turned homi­cide was sen­tenced Fri­day to 40years-to-life in state prison.

Zachery Good­win, now 20, was one of four peo­ple con­victed in the fa­tal shoot­ing of Michael Der Vartanian, 59, of Clo­vis.

Good­win and his code­fen­dants were all teens when the crime happened. Be­cause of that, Judge John F. Vogt wres­tled with whether to grant le­niency to Good­win be­cause of his age and child­hood hard­ships.

Still, the judge de­ter­mined pub­lic safety out­weighed other fac­tors. Thus, he agreed to give pros­e­cu­tors the sen­tence they sought.

“Every­one who has sat in (the de­fen­dant’s seat) has a sad story,” Vogt said. “And Mr. Good­win prob­a­bly has one of the sad­dest.”

Good­win will be el­i­gi­ble for pa­role af­ter serv­ing around 25 years in prison, ac­cord­ing to Deputy Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ryan Wells, the pros­e­cu­tor in the case.

TROU­BLED YOUTH

Wear­ing a stan­dard red jail­house jump­suit, with a mop of black hair on his head, Good­win re­mained quiet dur­ing much of the hear­ing.

Vogt said he was trou­bled by a 22-page re­port from a so­cial worker, hired by de­fense at­tor­ney Michael McKneely.

The re­port doc­u­mented the strug­gles Good­win en­dured grow­ing up — a youth marred by phys­i­cal abuse, be­ing born pre­ma­ture, get­ting hit by a garbage truck and be­ing raised in a home with drug and al­co­hol use.

“The 22-page re­port lays out in painful de­tail the path that brought Mr. Good­win to Depart­ment 60,” said Vogt.

Good­win ad­mit­ted to liv­ing a life of ram­pant drug use and com­mit­ting crimes.

“I don’t re­mem­ber the last sober day I had be­fore the shoot­ing,” he wrote in a three-page let­ter to the judge. “I used each day, what­ever peo­ple were will­ing to share with me. I drank, I smoked mar­i­juana and I used metham­phetamine and co­caine.”

In the let­ter, Good­win wrote he and his co-de­fen­dants wanted to take Der Vartanian’s car so they could get to the de­fen­dant’s house faster — even though each had enough bus fare to get there.

Good­win claimed he was pres­sured by two of his ac­com­plices — Ed­die Martinez and a ju­ve­nile — who’ve both been con­victed for their part in the mur­der. Martinez was sen­tenced to nine years and eight months and the ju­ve­nile re­ceived 11 years in the state’s ju­ve­nile jus­tice sys­tem.

A fourth ac­com­plice, April Amey, a one-time teenage pros­ti­tute, has al­ready served her four year sen­tence.

“They both told me, ‘McLovin (Good­win’s nick­name), you pull some­body out of the car and we’ll get off (drive away)‘” he wrote.

It didn’t hap­pen that way. On Jan. 15, 2016, Der Vartanian was talk­ing to Amey in cen­tral Fresno when Good­win, armed with a gun, be­gan ap­proach­ing the vic­tim’s black Mercedes.

Der Vartanian saw Good­win and tried to speed away — sur­pris­ing Good­win, who fired sev­eral shots into the car. Der Vartanian was shot in the up­per torso and left shoul­der. He was taken to Com­mu­nity Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter where he later died.

FAM­ILY OF VIC­TIM SPEAKS

Good­win was found guilty in April of sec­ond de­gree mur­der, at­tempted rob­bery and dis­charg­ing a firearm into an in­hab­ited dwelling.

His fa­ther, Daniel Good­win, pleaded with the judge to grant his son a sec­ond chance. He said Good­win was “just a child” when he com­mit­ted the crime and didn’t fully un­der­stand the con­se­quences of what he had done.

“He is a kind-hearted soul who made a poor de­ci­sion,” the fa­ther said. “He re­al­izes now that what he did was re­ally bad.”

McKneely urged the judge to give his client a 19-year sen­tence, al­low­ing him to be el­i­gi­ble for a youth of­fender pa­role hear­ing af­ter 15 years in prison.

Der Vartanian’s wife and mother said no amount of re­morse for poor de­ci­sion-mak­ing can bring back their loved one. They wanted the 40-to-life max­i­mum.

“My life has been robbed of pre­cious mo­ments,” said Olga Der Vartanian. “I will not be able to see, touch or hug him any­more.”

Af­ter the hear­ing, Wells said he was pleased with out­come and un­der­stood Vogt’s dif­fi­culty in de­ter­min­ing a sen­tence.

“He (Good­win) had a tough child­hood and the judge was aware of that,” Wells said. “But 40 years to life is the only just sen­tence.”

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