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Bradenton man sentenced to life for 2019 murder

Juan Esparza
Juan Esparza(SCSO)
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 3:29 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A Bradenton man received two life sentences Tuesday for a 2019 murder in Sarasota.

Juan Esparza was convicted in Sarasota County Court of first-degree murder and armed burglary. He also received a 15-year sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and five years for tampering with evidence.

On Oct. 19, 2019, Sarasota Police responded to a home on Sixth Street around 10 a.m. after receiving a call about a possible suicide.

Officers got no response at the door and forcibly entered the home. Once inside, they found Joel Sanchez dead on the living room floor with a gunshot wound to the head.

Witnesses said Esparza was angry at the victim over comments reportedly made about his girlfriend. A taxi service told police they drove Esparza to Sanchez’s house the night before the victim was found. Armed with a 9mm Glock, he entered Sanchez’s home and recorded a video taunting him. He sent the video to his girlfriend and waited for Sanchez to return to his home.

Within 30 minutes his return, Esparza shot Sanchez in the head.

The victim’s brother told officers he woke up the next morning to discover Esparza had sent him a text message around 1 a.m. claiming Esparza was video chatting with Sanchez when Sanchez shot himself in the head.

But police say no firearm was found in the home. The murder weapon was found several days later hidden on Esparza’s property in Bradenton.

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