Juneau man gets 45 years for murder

Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2001

JUNEAU -- One of two men convicted in the beating death of a man outside a downtown mobile home 15 months ago has been sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Rey Joel Soto, 21 and Ronald E. Smith, 33, were convicted in December of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree assault in the death of Kenneth Thomas and the beating and robbery of Alfred Torres, Sr. Smith's sentencing is set for April 19.

''At this point he is intent on appealing his sentence as being excessive and not intent on appealing his conviction,'' Soto's lawyer, Michael O'Brien, said at Friday's sentencing.

At his sentencing, Soto said he brought a baseball bat and Smith brought a borrowed shotgun to the trailer in the early morning of Jan. 25, 2000, and Smith demanded money and drugs.

From inside the trailer's door, Torres grabbed the shotguns barrel and was pulled outside, Soto said. Thomas screamed, Soto said, and Soto hit Thomas with the bat. Thomas, 36, was flown to an Anchorage hospital and died from a severe head injury the next day.

Torres, Thomas half brother, was injured. Although Soto denied he hit Torres, some of Torres blood was on the bat.

''As I viewed the evidence, there was never a situation where Mr. Soto had to use the bat,'' said Assistant District Attorney Susan McLean. ''He used the bat before anyone tried to defend themselves.''

At, his sentencing, Soto said he sees Thomas' face when he wakes up and goes to sleep and read a poem to he wrote to the dead man.

''Those that lost you suffer more than me because they knew a part of you I never got to see,'' Soto said.

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