As a 27-year-old man convicted in the 2020 murder of a father of four in Cathedral City is set to be sentenced Friday, the Riverside County District Attorney's office today asked for the public's help in locating the gunman who fired the fatal shots.
Jose Sanchez-Casas was found guilty Oct. 18 of one felony count each of murder and shooting at a dwelling, according to court records. He was also convicted of one misdemeanor count of possessing more than 28 1/2 grams of marijuana.
He is set to be sentenced Friday at the Banning Justice Center and faces up to 15 years to life in prison, according to the district attorney's office public information officer Brooke Beare.
"That justice was served brings peace to me and our four children'' said the widow of the victim, 43-year-old Ruben Hernandez, in a statement. "It is my hope that the other suspect who has fled from authorities will soon be found."
"My dad was a good man. He was every other immigrant father. He worked every day. He had no enemies," Hernandez's older daughter told News Channel 3 in March 2020.
Gabriel Hernandez, 24, of Indio -- the alleged killer -- has not been located and has a $1 million warrant out for his arrest, Beare said. Anyone with information on his whereabouts or related to the fatal shooting was asked to call the Cathedral City Police Department at 760-770-0300.
The defendant is not related to the victim.
He is charged with one felony count of murder, two of attempted murder, and faces sentence-enhancing allegations of causing great bodily injury and using a firearm as well as a special circumstance allegation of being an active gang member, according to court records.
He allegedly fled to Mexico with 22-year-old co-defendant Joel Sanchez of Cathedral City, who was sentenced Sept. 21 to three years and four months in state prison after pleading guilty Dec. 28, 2022, to one felony count each of being an accessory after the fact, carrying a loaded firearm, and possessing a shotgun, according to court records. He also pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count each of possession of controlled substances and possessing more than 28 grams of marijuana.
Ethan Bravo, 22, of Cathedral City, is charged with one felony count of attempted murder and two of possessing controlled substances for sale, according to court records. His next court appearance was set for Jan. 17, 2024, as he awaits trial.
The four defendants were arrested in connection with two shootings reported a few hours apart in Cathedral City, including one on March 23, 2020, at a home on Avenida La Vista that left Ruben Hernandez dead. His 11-year-old daughter was also wounded in the attack but survived, according to the Cathedral City Police Department.
Sanchez-Casas and Gabriel Hernandez believed that someone who lived in the home was responsible for one of their friends' murder from October 2019 in La Quinta, according to Beare. Sanchez-Casas subsequently drove Gabriel Hernandez to the home in someone else's truck.
It's alleged that Gabriel Hernandez got out of the truck, went up to the house, attempted to get in and fired several times through the family's metal security door, Beare said. The father and daughter, who had only recently moved to the home with their family, were both struck.
According to Cathedral City police, the shooting occurred in the 29000 block of Avenida La Vista about 6:40 p.m. March 23, 2020, and it's alleged that Gabriel Hernandez began firing as Ruben Hernandez stood in the doorway and his daughter stood nearby. Hernandez died at the scene, and paramedics took his wounded daughter to a hospital.
Gabriel Hernandez was charged April 1, 2021, with three felony charges, one of murder and two of attempted murder. The other attempted murder count was for the alleged attempted shooting of another person at a second location hours later.
A second shooting was reported in the early morning hours of March 24, 2020, in the 33300 block of Wishing Well Trail, police said. Several shots were fired at a home with people inside about 2 a.m., but nobody was injured.
The investigation into that shooting yielded "witnesses and physical evidence'' that connected back to the first shooting, which occurred less than three miles away, police said.
The Riverside County Gang Impact Team subsequently worked with CCPD to locate Sanchez in Tijuana, Mexico, and he was charged with helping Gabriel Hernandez escape arrest and avoid prosecution.