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Gang member sentenced in 1991 murder of 16-year-old boy

January 13, 2012 | 12:19 pm

A 37-year-old gang member was sentenced to 85 years to life in prison Thursday for killing a 16-year-old Burbank boy more than 20 years ago in Van Nuys.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Bob Bowers Jr. sentenced Rodolfo Gallegos in connection to the death of Kenneth Caldera Jr. and the attempted murder of four of Caldera's friends.

Bowers said it's a tragedy for both families: Caldera's family will never get to see him again, while at the same time Gallegos' mother must also deal with the emotional and physical pain of losing her son for the crime he committed, the Burbank Leader reported.

The victim's father, Kenneth Caldera Sr., stared at Gallegos before the sentencing.

He described driving to the courthouse that day and realizing that he missed all of his son's life milestones, including his high school graduation, enrollment in the military and the Champagne toast at his wedding.

"I missed him growing into a man," he said.

Kenneth Caldera Jr. grew up in Burbank, where he played football at Burbank High and was named sophomore class prince of the homecoming court, family members said.

He was shot and killed on Aug. 24, 1991, after leaving a house party. The younger Caldera was in an idling car with friends on Roscoe Boulevard in Van Nuys when a large vehicle pulled up next to it. The then-16-year-old Gallegos held a gun outside the driver's-side window and fired several rounds at the car, witnesses said.

The Van Nuys neighborhood was the territory of Gallegos' street gang, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Soon after the shooting, Gallegos fled to Mexico and got a job as an English teacher at the University of Guanajuato, Celaya. But he was eventually found and arrested Oct. 2, 2008, and extradited to the United States to face criminal charges.

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-- Veronica Rocha, Times Community News

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