Salt Lake City:It's judgment day for a man who was involved in gunning down a 7-year-old girl on Salt Lake City's west side.
7-year-old Maria Del Carmen Menchaca was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting on July 6, 2008. She was caught in the middle of a gang-on-gang shooting. Frank Benavidez was sentenced on a first-degree murder conviction in the 2008 death of Maria Menchaca.
Friday, the judge issued a sentence of at least 16 years and the possibility of up to life in prison for the man -- a sentence that, for the young girl's family, does little to ease their sorrow.
Maria's family was in the courtroom as Benavidez was sentenced for his role in her murder as the driver of the car.
In court Friday, he apologized to the family and told the judge he would show that it is possible for people to turn their lives around, and pledged to do that while he serves his time in prison.
It's little consolation for Maria's family.
"The family is obviously very sad and devastated about the murder of their 7-year-old daughter, and nothing that the court system can do will ever take away that pain and anguish that they feel," said Blake Hills, the family's attorney.
Along with Benavidez, 18-year-old Gabriel Alvarez received the same 16-years-to-life sentence last year for firing the shot. His first parole hearing will be in the year 2033.
A third defendant -- just 17 years old -- pleaded guilty to manslaughter for providing the murder weapon.
The shooting also prompted changes to that neighborhood in Glendale as residents stood up to crime and began taking more interest in each other.