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Man convicted in 1985 murder up for parole

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Fresno man convicted in the 1985 murders of a woman and her young niece is set to be paroled. The victim's family told Action News his release is unjustified.

28-year-old Cindy Salazar and three-year-old Michelle Martinez were both shot to death at a home in central Fresno more than 27 years ago.

Steven Sanchez did not pull the trigger, but he was convicted on two counts of first degree murder. He and two other teens went into the victim's home looking to steal drugs and money. Sanchez was 18 years old at the time of the murders.

According to the Department of Corrections, Sanchez served more than the legal minimum of his time in prison and has proved himself to be worthy of serving the rest of his sentence on parole.

The families of the two victims said they want the public to know a dangerous criminal will soon be walking the streets. In January 1985 Abel Salazar found his wife and niece dead when he came home from work. Friday he told Action News the announcement of Sanchez's paroled release brought back every pain he experienced following the murders.

"In two months from now it will be 28 years since they committed this crime," Salazar said. "We have suffered massively, the whole family. There was no reason for him to be out at this time. It's not something we should be thinking about this right now."

Sanchez was sentenced to two terms of 26 years-to-life in prison. The DOC said the terms were set to run simultaneously. He's been housed at the Corcoran State Prison, where several other parole requests were denied over the years.

The DOC told Action News the parole board must see Sanchez as a safe person to release him on parole.

"I don't think he went through half the agony and the pain and the sorrow that my family went through," Sandy Benavides said. Benavides, Michelle Martinez's mother said her little girl turned three just days before she was murdered.

"I want the people to be aware that there is a baby killer going to be turned loose back out on the streets," she said.

Cindy Salazar was three months pregnant. She and Abel were only married for about two weeks when she was killed. Abel said he doesn't believe Sanchez is a changed man, even after 26 years in prison.

"Even though he did not murder them, he played a large part of it. He's the one who went back in my home and tried to cover up the evidence from it," Salazar said.

Sanchez is set to be paroled later this month. He will likely be released on parole in Fresno County. The family is now petitioning to have him kept more than 30 miles away from them a request typically granted to victims and their families.

It's not clear what happened to the youngest of the convicted teens. The 15-year-old was charged as a juvenile. And the shooter, a 17 year old, was charged as an adult and is still in prison.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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