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Ceres man handed life sentence for 2019 west Modesto shooting
Sprayed bullets on front-yard Fourth of July gathering in 2009
Abel Rodriguez
Abel Rodriguez

Abel Rodriguez, Jr., 37, of Ceres, has been sentenced to serve 153 years to life in state prison after previously being convicted at jury trial last March 28, 2019 of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder with firearm and gang enhancements.

On July 4, 2009 at approximately 9:50 p.m., Rodriguez and fellow Norteno gang members shot up a rival Sureno gang’s house. He drove his friends to a home in west Modesto where an innocent family was having an Independence Day barbeque in the front yard. Rodriguez stopped in the street in front of the house, rolled down his window, turned off the headlights and fired his gun into the crowd, striking three people. An innocent bystander, a migrant laborer, was shot three times in the back and killed. Two others were seriously injured.

The gun used by Rodriguez was a Glock handgun illegally modified to fire fully automatic.

When Sheriff’s deputies spotted Rodriguez’s car and attempted to stop him, the Ceres man led them on a high-speed pursuit southbound on Highway 99 until he lost control and crashed at the West Main Street exit in Turlock and was captured. During the chase, the driver handed the machine gun to Alvarez, who threw it out the window. It was later recovered and determined to be the firearm used in the shooting. A shell casing found on the floorboard of the car matched 12 other shell casings at the scene of the shooting. 

The trial was delayed by the death of a defense attorney and the retirement of another. A Stanislaus County jury finally convicted Rodriguez in March 2019 on all counts.

Rodriguez has delayed sentencing by filing various motions to overturn his conviction, all of which were denied. Last week, Judge Nancy Leo followed Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar’s request and sentenced Rodriguez to serve 75 years to life in state prison for killing the one victim and 39 years to life for each of the other two victims who were seriously injured for a total prison term of 153 years to life. The sentence was increased due to a prior strike conviction in 2009 for assault with a firearm.

In April 2019 Rodriguez’s friend, Pedro Alvarez Jr. of Ceres, was convicted of aiding and abetting a 2009 gang killing and sentenced to 13 years state prison by Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Nancy Ashley.