TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A 23-year-old has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a 2017 murder of a teenager during a drug robbery in Visalia, officials with the Tulare County District’s Attorney Office announced on Friday.
Court documents say, on May 28, 2017, 23-year-old Noah Fox and 24-year-old Kalvin Solis conspired to rob the victim of marijuana. Fox asked the victim to meet at Woodland Park in northwest Visalia and Solis solicited a ride for the pair from a juvenile.
In the vehicle also was 24-year-old Jose Cortez. Authorities say that before going to the park, the group drove to a residence to pick up a handgun from a different teenager.
At the park, the suspects pulled behind the victim’s vehicle. The victim believing the meetup was a drug sale, allowed Fox to enter the back seat of the vehicle, DA’s officials say.
Fox then took out the handgun and pointed it at the victim, demanding a bag of marijuana. Startled by the turn of events, the victim began to drive away. The victim’s girlfriend, who was also in the vehicle, fell into the back seat and attempted to kick Fox out of the car, authorities added.
Fox shot the victim through the back before the car crashed into a parked car. Fox ran out of the car and was picked up by the other individuals. Witnesses said they observed Fox and Solis grab another bag of marijuana before departing, officials added.
A short time later, Visalia Police Department detectives say they observed Fox and Solis exit the suspect vehicle at a north Visalia location.
Police then contacted the suspects and found two bags of marijuana and a firearm in Solis’ backpack.
Investigators say, forensic analysis of the firearm later matched it to the gun used in the crime. Additionally, Fox’s DNA was located on the firearm.
Court officials added that prior to the killing on May 28, Solis was involved in multiple armed robberies of pizza delivery drivers on March 11 and 12. No one was hurt during the incidents.
Then, on March 14, a pizza shop employee grew suspicious of an incoming order and contacted Visalia Police Department officers. Police arrested Solis at the arranged delivery and booked him into custody.
On May 10, 2017, over the objection of prosecutors, Solis was released by the court on his own recognizance.
On March 18, 2021, a jury found Solis guilty of first-degree murder with the special circumstance that the murder was committed in the commission of a robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, two additional counts of robbery while armed with a knife, and a misdemeanor count of providing false information to police.
Prosecutors say they also found true the special allegation that Solis committed the murder and conspiracy to commit robbery while out on bail in the armed robbery case. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on April 16, 2021.
Officials say, on April 7, 2022, a jury found Fox guilty of first-degree murder with the special circumstance that the murder was committed in the commission of a robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. The jury also found true the special allegation that the defendant personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing the victim’s death.
In September 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1437. The bill changes the law to treat accomplices to murder differently than the actual killers.
Under that new law, only major participants who act with reckless indifference for human life can be prosecuted for murder under the theory of felony murder. In light of the new standards, on October 26, 2018, Jose Cortez pleaded no contest to robbery for his role in the crime. On December 5, 2018, he was sentenced to 5 years of suspended state prison pending his successful completion of felony probation. Cortez’s jail term within custody credits was 1,113 days.
The teenagers involved in the case were adjudicated in juvenile court.
The case was prosecuted by Supervising Deputy District Attorney Candice Moore. The murder case was investigated by Sergeant James Cummings of the Visalia Police Department. Solis’s pizza robbery case was investigated by Sergeant Mona Whaley of the Visalia Police Department.