ESCONDIDO — On his last report card, Irwin Valdez received straight As and outstanding marks for his effort and citizenship. One of his supervisors described Irwin Valdez as an “honest” and “supportive” young man who has the ability to see things from another’s perspective.
Unfortunately, those accolades stem from Irwin Valdez’s time in juvenile hall, where he has been confined since April for the murder of a 17-year-old high school student and the beating of another teen in a gang-related attack in Escondido.
Prosecutors allege last April 10 around 11 p.m., Adan Valdez, 26, drove the car that pulled up to where the two teenagers were standing on the corner of Mission Avenue and Midway. It was then that Irwin Valdez, 16, and his brother, Alexander Salazar, 18, attacked the victims. Irwin Valdez, who was charged as an adult, assaulted one teen with a baseball bat and Salazar stabbed the other teen, Valley High Student Gerardo “Danny” Medina, to death.
Neither victim was associated or documented with a gang, Deputy District Attorney Cal Logan said in a phone interview. However, he said Irwin Valdez and Salazar were both documented members of an Escondido street gang.
As a shackled Irwin Valdez made his way into the courtroom Jan. 8, his chains rattled and he flashed a fleeting smile to the handful of his supporters in the audience. Less than 30 minutes later, Irwin Valdez was led out of the courtroom, still shackled, still wearing his bright orange jumpsuit, but now a convicted felon who will be spend the next two decades behind bars.
“He’s a good person,” Adrian Sherley, Irwin Valdez’s girlfriend, said outside the courtroom. “He doesn’t deserve 23 years.”
Faced with life in prison, Irwin Valdez took a plea agreement that stipulates he will receive 23 years in prison and two strikes. He pleaded guilty to a single felony count each of voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. Additionally, he admitted two gang allegations, which infer the crime was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
Following Irwin Valdez’s hearing, his co-defendant, Adan Valdez, no relation, also pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon and dissuading a witness by force or threat. He also admitted a gang allegation. In accordance to his plea agreement, he will receive 15 years in prison when he is sentenced.
Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25 at Vista Superior Court.
Salazar is currently wanted by authorities for his role in the murder. Authorities believe he may be in Mexico.
Logan said his office never hesitated in charging either Valdez with murder because they each played a role in Medina’s slaying.
“I think the plea was appropriate given all the facts and circumstances of the case,” the prosecutor said.
If you have any information about Salazar’s whereabouts, please contact the Escondido Police Department at (760)743-8477. There is a cash reward for information leading to his arrest.