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Arellano facing 9 years in prison for fatal shot
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Felix Arellano, 27, of Ceres, was sentenced April 15 to the maximum term of 9 years and 8 months in prison for his role in the shooting death of his two-year-old Ceres daughter Cruzita Arellano.

Arellano plead guilty to six felony charges on March 2. Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees appeared at the hearing and argued for the maximum term. Judge Donald Shaver presided over the sentencing.

Authorities said that on Sept. 19, 2007, Arellano had passed out on the couch after ingesting methamphetamines at 3418 Ninth Street and carelessly left a loaded .38 caliber semiautomatic handgun on the table where his daughter found it. Cruzita started playing with the gun. It went off, hitting her in the heart and left lung. The child was later pronounced dead at a Modesto hospital.

When Ceres Police and emergency personnel arrived at the residence, Arellano was in front holding the lifeless girl in his arms. Both Arellano and the child were covered in blood. Gunshot residue testing to both of pairs of hands was positive and the autopsy results confirmed a shot at very close contact, in a slightly upward angle.

Arellano had been released from jail just five days prior to the shooting. Police found guns and ammunition, large quantities of drugs, including methamphetamine, marijuana, a variety of prescription pills and heroin. Stolen property, $2700 in cash, and evidence that Arellano was a member of the Norteno gang were also found. The house was equipped with surveillance cameras and monitors.

Arellano was charged with six felonies, including child abuse, possession of a firearm, possession of drugs for sale, possession of drugs while in immediate possession of a firearm, possession of stolen property, and being a member of a gang.

In exchange for his plea to all six felonies, the District Attorney's office dropped the enhancements originally charged: selling the drugs and possessing the weapon for the benefit of the gang.

"There was insufficient evidence that these things were going on specifically to benefit the gang," stated Rees. "Clearly, Arellano was a drug dealer, but we did not have the evidence necessary to prove that he was selling drugs specifically for the benefit of the Norteno gang."

Rees told the judge that his office wanted to charge Arellano with murder, or manslaughter, "but the evidence was clear - it was the lifestyle that defendant himself chose, a lifestyle of drugs and guns to protect his drugs, that led to the tragic death of an innocent child. She couldn't choose were she lived and died. The defendant chose that for her."