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2nd Man Pleads Guilty in Restaurant Killing


VAN NUYS — The second of three men charged in the murder of a 19-year-old Northridge pizzeria manager pleaded guilty Monday, avoiding a trial that, if it had ended in a conviction, could have sent him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Instead, under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Alex Martinez Velasquez, 18, will be sentenced on Jan. 25 to 26 years to life in prison for first-degree murder.

Velasquez's attorney, Daniel A. Guerrero of Pasadena, said his client accepted the settlement because he could now possibly get out of prison before the age of 40.

"We think he might be able to get parole after doing 15 to 18 years of his sentence, which means he would still be a young man," Guerrero said outside the courtroom.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Mason said the offer was made because it "accurately reflects his participation" in the Jan. 14, 1993, robbery-slaying of John Michael Holden.

According to police, Velasquez and another man, Dusty Tyrone Castillo, 18, entered Ameci In & Out Pizza & Pasta restaurant in Porter Ranch that night and demanded money. A third man, Oscar Hernandez Villanueva, 17, waited outside in a getaway car.

After Holden handed over $450, Castillo shot him once in the chest. Holden died later in the hospital.

Velasquez and Villanueva were arrested soon after the incident, but Castillo had eluded authorities for nearly 10 months. Police had released the name and photograph of Castillo, and a television series that re-enacts unsolved crimes aired a story on the slaying six months later.

Castillo was arrested a week after the broadcast in San Luis Obispo County. He is awaiting a Nov. 14 trial on the first-degree murder charge and 11 other unrelated robbery charges.

Villanueva pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in April and is awaiting sentencing on Oct. 25 to 16 years to life in prison under a plea agreement.

All three men were under 18 years of age when the killing occurred, but all were ordered to stand trial as adults.

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