A 22-year-old woman tearfully recalled the last time she saw her dad conscious after getting a call that he’d been shot and “it was bad.”
Darlin Molina rushed to the scene on Lewis Street to comfort her dad. It was late July 4, 2017.
Jorge Rodriguez just stared at his daughter, holding his face and waving his hand for her to calm down, before being whisked away in an ambulance.
The 51-year-old Pasco man was unable to recover from the severe brain damage and died 25 days later.
On Tuesday, Molina said the actions of the convicted killer, Pedro Cadenas, are unforgivable and caused much pain to her family.
She stood with her two younger sisters before a judge in Franklin County Superior Court and asked that justice be served.
Cadenas, now 19, was sentenced to 36 years and two months in state prison. He will be in his early 50s before he is free again.
‘I miss them both’
“I don’t care how young (Cadenas) is. I feel like his life is a waste, and I truly wish it was him (dead) instead of my father,” said Molina. “I would have loved to have at least had the opportunity to at least get to visit (dad) through a glass window.”
Rodriguez had been looking forward to becoming a first-time grandfather. He never got to meet Molina’s “beautiful baby girl,” she said.
Then this past October, the sisters’ mother died from cancer, which they believe might have been caught sooner if she had not been distracted and devastated by her husband’s death.
“My sisters were left without parents because of him,” said Molina. “I miss them both every day.”
Karen Molina, 18, added that she is sad about losing both of her parents within one year. However, she has peace in her heart knowing justice is being served for her dad and that her mom is no longer in pain and has been reunited with her love.
“Their memory will live on forever in our hearts,” she said.
Shooter and victim were strangers
Rodriguez and Cadenas, who was 17 at the time, did not know each other before that holiday night.
Prosecutor Shawn Sant said it is believed Cadenas’ motive was to get the victim’s Cadillac Escalade.
Rodriguez had stopped at Fiesta Foods to get something to eat on his way home. Video from the grocery store near downtown Pasco shows Cadenas was there at the same time dressed in clothes that matched what the suspect was wearing after the shooting, said Sant.
Cadenas somehow got into the passenger seat of the Cadillac at the store, and then shot four times at Rodriguez as he was driving on Lewis Street at 10:30 p.m.
Rodriguez, who was hit in the head, drove the SUV through a fence and crashed into a parked car.
Surveillance video from a nearby business shows Cadenas and Rodriguez getting out of the SUV.
While Rodriguez waved down passers-by for help, Cadenas got behind the wheel of the Cadillac but was unable to drive off because the gas tank was stuck on a fence post.
Cadenas ended up running away, returning to a holiday barbecue where he admitted to shooting someone. He was arrested two days later in Sunnyside.
Guilty of 3 counts
In November, a jury convicted the teen of first-degree murder, second-degree unlawful gun possession and attempted vehicle theft.
The murder charge included the special allegation Cadenas was armed with a gun when he killed Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was transferred from a Tri-City hospital to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. He was moved to hospice care in Kennewick shortly before his death on July 29, 2017.
“I just want to say I’m sorry for their loss, and that’s it,” Cadenas said on Tuesday.
No childhood role model
Defense attorney Daniel Stovern read a letter from Cadenas’ mother, who said she does not condone her son’s actions but feels his upbringing may have played a role.
She was 17 was Cadenas was born, and was unable to provide him with the life skills or role model he needed. Cadenas’ father died when he was 5, and by 11 he was using crystal methamphetamine and going to juvenile detention for criminal behavior, the mom wrote.
Stovern asked Judge Cameron Mitchell to consider his client’s upbringing and age, saying 17-year-olds have not fully formed their brains yet and can’t make decisions like adults.
The lawyer asked that Cadenas be sentenced to 28 years and five months, at the bottom of the standard range so he has the chance as an adult to be out in the world.
Failed to see remorse
Sant requested the maximum sentence of 36 years and two months.
“I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to change this defendant’s behavior, and I don’t usually have this position,” he said. “In this case, frankly, I don’t think there is anything we can do other than keep this defendant in custody for as long as possible.”
Judge Mitchell agreed that Cadenas’ demeanor has been concerning, especially during the trial. He said he appreciated the teen’s “sorry” comment, but otherwise has failed to see remorse from him.
Mitchell told the three daughters that nothing he can say will bring back their father or take away their pain.
“I wish you the best going forward and I hope that, as you said in one of the letters, that you all look forward to living a life that your parents hoped and planned for you,” said the judge.
The sisters replied in unison, “Thank you.”