A gang member accused of fatally shooting a 32-year-old man at an after-hours club in August pleaded guilty to murder Friday in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence.
Rick S. Smith, who also goes by the last name Soto, must serve at least 10 years in prison for the slaying of Ernest “Mike” Vasquez before becoming eligible for parole.
Smith’s girlfriend, Tiffany Ashley Torres, remained jailed Friday awaiting trial on a murder charge.
Police allege that Torres told Smith to “take care” of Vasquez, 32, after Vasquez alerted a bouncer that Smith had brought a gun into the Siin Lounge at 2104 Jacksboro Highway in Fort Worth in the early hours of Aug. 3.
Smith then began arguing with Vasquez, a rival gang member, before pulling a gun and firing at him.
Vasquez pulled out his own gun and returned fire. He was struck twice and died at a Fort Worth hospital.
Police said Smith continued shooting as he and Torres fled the club, wounding another man in the parking lot.
Smith was indicted on six counts in the shooting. Under an agreement with prosecutor Michelle Dobson, he accepted a 20-year sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to murder.
Cody Cofer, Smith’s attorney, said his client felt taking the plea was safer than going to trial and risking a life sentence.
After Smith was sentenced, Vasquez’s mother took the stand Friday, telling Smith that she wants him to know what he did to her family.
“You have torn and cheated our lives by taking my son away from his kids,” a crying Elizabeth Vasquez said.
She said her son’s children will never again be able to hug their father or tell him that they love him. Her son will never again be able to attend their school activities, help them with homework, or take them fishing or swimming.
“His only little girl — his princess — can’t hug Daddy and tell him she loves him. He was her king,” she said.
“I hate you for what you have done to us,” she added. “You had no right to be judge, jury and executioner, and I hate you for that. Our lives will never be the same.”
She ended by telling him that she will do everything in her power to see that he serves every day of his sentence.
Smith hung his head, crying, as Elizabeth Vasquez addressed him.
Cofer said his client feels bad for the pain he has caused Vasquez’s children.
“I think he did feel bad for the outcome and was remorseful,” Cofer said.
Four of Smith’s fellow gang members were also arrested in the case.
Raymond Anthony Pena, 19, is accused of opening fire elsewhere in the club, wounding a third person.
Pena remained jailed Friday awaiting trial on a charge of engaging in organized crime.
Andrew Perez Arellano, 27; Ernest Andrew Garcia, 29; and Joseph Molina, 23, were also charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. Tarrant County records show that a grand jury declined to indict Arellano and Molina in October.
Garcia was instead indicted on a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm.
Garcia has been free on bail, but court records show that a warrant was issued for his arrest April 1 after he allegedly violated a bail condition. He had not been arrested on that warrant as of Friday.
Visiting Judge Everett Young presided over Friday’s hearing, filling in for state District Judge Mollee Westfall.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655