Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Munoz sentenced to life in prison

LAKEPORT – The man convicted of murdering a 26-year-old single mother in her apartment more than five years ago will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Judge Arthur Mann sentenced Edward James Munoz, 27, to life without the possibility of parole on Monday afternoon, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.

On June 27 a jury convicted Munoz of the brutal murder of Leah Leister in March 2002.

Munoz also was convicted of a special gang enhancement, said Hinchcliff. As Lake County News previously reported, Munoz originally told investigators he carried out Leister's murder on the orders of Norteno gang leaders in Pelican Bay State Prison, although he later changed his story.

Because of that gang enhancement, the mandatory sentence was elevated from 25 years to life to life without the possibility of parole, Hinchcliff said.

“Special circumstances make it a capital crime, which can either be the death penalty or life without parole, and we didn't seek the death penalty,” Hinchcliff explained.

In a previous interview, Hinchcliff said that the District Attorney's Office didn't believe the case would meet the necessary statutory guidelines for a death penalty case, which usually requires multiple homicides, the murder of a peace officer or an extensive previous criminal record.

Hinchcliff said George Boisseau, the Santa Rosa attorney defending Munoz, has filed a notice that he is planning to appeal the conviction. That's typical in every homicide case, said Hinchcliff.

Munoz – who has been housed in the Lake County Jail for nearly five and a half years, a stay which Hinchcliff estimated is the longest in the jail's history – will next be transported to San Quentin State Prison. There, Hinchcliff said prison officials will evaluate Munoz and decide where in the prison system to permanently house him.

Hinchcliff, who has worked on the case since its beginnings in 2002, said he's relieved that's it's finally over.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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