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Man gets 30 years for Red Wing murder

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The agony of murder cuts deep.

That was the message shared Monday by two families on polar opposite ends of a Red Wing homicide.

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"The murder has been overwhelming to the victim's family," Goodhue County Attorney Stephen Betcher told the court. "They have lost trust and peace of mind over this tragedy."

Luis Orlando Galicia Mijangos was shot to death Jan. 20 by Marvin Todd Griffith in an alley about two blocks from Goodhue County's law enforcement and justice nerve centers. Griffith was sentenced Monday to 30 years for second-degree intentional homicide.

While Mijangos' brother chose not to speak at sentencing, Griffith's sister broke the silence moments before First District Judge Thomas Bibus was about to excuse the defendant.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Sheena Cobb issued an emotional plea for forgiveness, alternating her focus between Mijangos' brother and Bibus.

"Look in your heart and truly forgive my brother," Cobb said, fighting back tears.

Griffith's sentencing brings an end to court proceedings for the five defendants considered the biggest players in Mijangos' death.

Four other Red Wing people have now been sentenced in the case:

William Lawton, Julian Smith, Erika Sanchez and Samantha Siples.

Griffith, Lawton, Sanchez and Siples were indicted by a grand jury on first-degree murder charges, but pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for their testimony in the case.

Smith, 16, testified in front of the grand jury, then cut a deal with prosecutors before indictments were handed down.

The plea agreements could mean testifying against Joseph Perkins, a Red Wing man who allegedly harbored Griffith after the murder.

Perkins is scheduled for a Friday settlement conference; his case is set for a Sept. 22 trial.

Janae Vonch, the woman accused of driving Sanchez to St. Paul to dispose of the murder weapon, returns to court Aug. 20. She was indicted on one count of aiding an offender, a charge that carries a 20-year prison term.

One last man, Twin Cities resident Donald Sesley, remains charged with first-degree accomplice murder in the Mijangos case. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.

Sesley had been sought by police since he was indicted in February by a grand jury. He was arrested last month after U.S. Marshal's discovered him living with a family in Arkansas.

As investigation into the Mijangos case unfolded, it became clear the number of suspects was "quite extraordinary," Betcher said after Monday's hearing.

"The extent of the investigation has made it possible for prosecution to move forward on the same scale," he said.

Griffith admitted in June to shooting Mijangos during a botched drug robbery. On Monday, Griffith expressed remorse for the murder.

"I am deeply sorry about this outcome," he said, also apologizing to Mijangos' brother "for all the hurt I caused."

Under Minnesota law, Griffith could be free in almost 20 years if he stays out of trouble in prison.

Betcher called Monday's hearing "a very significant milestone" in the case.

"That an individual has pled guilty and has received a sentence of up to 360 months in prison is a very substantial step toward restoring the safety of the community," he said.

Though he wouldn't comment on any specific cases, Betcher also indicated that investigation into the Mijangos murder has helped open doors in previously uncracked cases.

"There's no way to estimate what kind of criminal activity specific defendants were involved in," Betcher said. "However, since law enforcement has risen to a very high rate of awareness and coordination right now, it means law enforcement's response will be much more comprehensive than before."

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