SARASOTA (WWSB) - A man previously sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a 9-year-old Bradenton boy back in 2007 will now serve a total of 40 years in prison after a re-sentencing hearing Thursday.
Orlando Valenzuela was 15-years-old when he was called to bring a gun to a fight between rival gangs in a Bradenton neighborhood on 5th Street West on May 21, 2007.
Valenzuela was a part of SUR 13 gang when he arrived in a white Chrysler convertible trying to pick a fight with gang rivals in a green Cadillac. Valenzuela fired shots and 9-year-old Stacy Williams III was struck in the head by a stray bullet while walking along a walkway.
At the time, Valenzuela was sentenced to life. But under U.S Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court rules it is unconstitutional for a minor to be sentenced to life.
In late 2016 Valenzuela was granted a re-sentencing hearing. The hearing took place Thursday at the Manatee County Jail, where there was a heightened law enforcement presence due to the nature of the case and hearing.
Both families were present and Thursday Williams’ father and grandfather took the stand to testify.
Williams’ grandfather, Michael Battie, said life hasn’t been the same since the passing of his grandson. “It’s affected me a whole lot. Me and my wife is no longer together because of it. It still bothers me."
The Williams family also made a recommendation of what they believe should be Valenzuela’s sentence.
“Leave it as it is, his family can come see him. I cant see my grandson no more," said Battie.
Valenzuela’s mother and brother also took the stand.
Valenzuela’s brother, Alberto Valenzuela, asked for his brother to have a second chance. “With all due respect, I believe he deserves a second chance. I understand someone’s life was taken but at the end of the day I got a second chance. Look at me now, I don’t gang bang anymore, I don’t do nothing, I support my kids, go to work and get home about 7:30 to 8pm each night."
After all testimony was complete, Valenzuela took the stand and read a letter written to the Williams family, apologizing for the death of their loved one. “I was young, inconsiderate and had no regard for anyone else’s feelings but my own. I’m not going to stand here and use my age for any excuses or give you any other excuses. I’m here today to accept my responsibilities. I am here to accept my punishment but most importantly to give my deepest apologies."
A judge sentenced Valenzuela to 40 years in prison. After he completes his sentence, he’ll have 10 years of probation.