November 22, 2013

Gang member sentenced to life without parole in double slaying

Joe Mark Sessums Jr., 22, admitted he killed two and wounded two after following their car for miles, opening fire when the car took the Sycamore School Road exit off the South Freeway, prosecutors said.

A 22-year-old gang member who confessed to fatally shooting a man and woman in a moving car on a South Freeway service road was sentenced Thursday to life without parole.

Joe “Lil Joe” Mark Sessums Jr. told police that he and two co-defendants followed the car from a restaurant in southwest Fort Worth to the Sycamore School Road exit, prosecutors said. There, he fired 14 shots from a 9 mm handgun, killing the driver, Fabian Guerrero, 21, and passenger Diane Guerra, 22.

Sessums also hit two backseat passengers who survived, the Tarrant County district attorney’s office said in a news release.

A Tarrant County jury convicted Sessums of capital murder on Thursday. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, so state District Judge Wayne Salvant automatically sentenced Sessums to life without possibility of parole.

Prosecutors presented evidence that on the night of May 20, 2012, Guerrero, Guerra and several friends went to the Hooters restaurant on Southwest Boulevard. “Guerrero and some others in his group were believed to be members of a south Fort Worth gang that had been warring with a rival south side gang,” the news release said.

A Hooters employee saw them and called members of his gang. Three of them came to the restaurant and waited for Guerrero and his party to leave.

Shortly after 9 p.m., Guerrero, Guerra and three others drove away in a white Toyota Camry, headed east on South Loop 820 and turned south onto Interstate 35W. When they took the Sycamore School Road exit, a tan Tahoe pulled up, and Sessums opened fire, the release said.

The Camry crashed into a freeway retaining wall. Guerrero, who was driving, and Guerra, in the front passenger seat, were pronounced dead at the scene, the release said.

About a month later, Fort Worth police arrested Sessums, Gabriel “Lil Shadow” Cerda and Jose “Stretch” De La Rosa. Cerda, 20, and De La Rosa, 20, remained in the Tarrant County Jail Friday night awaiting capital murder trials. Bail is $1 million each.

Two days after the shootings, Guerrero’s sister told the Star-Telegram that her brother was working as a metal roofer and had an infant son. He was not in a gang but had been around gang members at social gatherings, she said.

In October 2011, Guerrero was shot in the foot when a gunman fired on partygoers a house in the Rosemont neighborhood, killing Christina Davila, 21. Six other people were also wounded. In September, Jacob Cordero, 22, was sentenced to 99 years in prison for that killing and for engaging in organized crime.

The backdrop to Cordero’s action was that two rival gangs were at war, according to prosecutors Tamla Ray and Michelle Dobson, who also prosecuted Sessums this week.

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