LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 34-year-old illegal immigrant from Guatemala was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole for killing a hot dog stand vendor with a pipe bomb hidden in a coffee cup outside a Las Vegas Strip casino in 2007.
Omar Rueda-Denvers protested that he was wrongly convicted before Clark County District Judge Michael Villani imposed a sentence determined in September by the same jury that convicted Rueda-Denvers and co-defendant Porfirio Duarte-Herrera of first-degree murder and other charges.
“I want to tell you that I am an innocent man of all the accusations that are against me,” Rueda-Denvers said through a Spanish translator. “I never solicited the placement of a bomb. I never asked anybody to build a bomb for me — that’s a lie. This was absurd and just a shock.”
Rueda-Denvers previously apologized and sought leniency from the jury that spared him the death penalty in the slaying of 24-year-old Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio.
Sentencing was postponed until Jan. 28 for the convicted bombmaker, Duarte-Herrera, 29, an illegal Nicaraguan immigrant. His attorney, Clark Patrick, gained the extra time so he could translate for his client a presentencing report that he received Wednesday.
Prosecutors accused Rueda-Denvers of supplying the motive — jealousy — and of accompanying Duarte-Herrera to the parking structure outside the Luxor resort to put a motion-activated bomb hidden in a foam 7-Eleven cup atop Dorantes Antonio’s car.
Dorantes Antonio, of Mexico, was dating Rueda-Denvers’ ex-girlfriend, Caren Chali, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala.
Chali, now 30, is the mother of one of Rueda-Denvers’ two daughters. She worked with Dorantes Antonio at a Nathan’s hot dog stand at the Luxor, and was with him when he lifted the bomb-laden cup off his parked car.
Chali escaped injury. But the judge noted Thursday that the blast sent bomb fragments across the top deck of the two-story parking structure — endangering anyone who might have been nearby.
Villani also sentenced Rueda-Denvers to a consecutive 16 to 40 years in prison for attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon, and folded in with it sentences totaling six to 20 years for felony explosives charges.
Rueda-Denvers’ attorney, Christopher Oram, said he plans to appeal.
Oram argued Thursday that Rueda-Denvers had no prior criminal record. But prosecutor David Stanton said investigators can’t tell Rueda-Denvers’ background because he never provided his real name.
Rueda-Denvers also uses the name Alexander Perez. Stanton said a man in Panama named Omar Rueda-Denvers contacted federal investigators in 2007 to protest that his name was linked with the bombing in Las Vegas.