AN undocumented Filipino was sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to the murder of three at an Ohio bar in March last year.
Igmidio “Roger” Mista, 34, accepted a last-minute plea deal on Feb. 17, just as his case was set to go to a jury trial before Sandusky County Common Pleas Judge Barbara Ansted. He was convicted of three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, according to the court report.
In exchange for the plea deal, the prosecutor’s office agreed to dismiss one count of felonious assault and one count of possessing a firearm in a bar.
The report added that Mista, who pleaded guilty for the charges last year, will not be eligible for parole until he has served at least 40 years in prison. He would be 78 by the time he is released.
On March 9, 2014, Mista opened fire inside the Last Call Bar in Fremont, Ohio, fatally shooting police officer Jose Andy Chavez, 26; bar musician Ramiro Sanchez, 28; and Army veteran Daniel Ramirez, 25. Ramiro Arreola, 25, was also severely wounded.
Chavez was celebrating his 26th birthday on the night of the murder. His wife, Amber, had been holding him and dancing when he was shot.
According to a report from The Sandusky Register, “an altercation” had taken place inside the bar prior to the shooting. Manuel Chavez, an uncle to both Chavez and the wife of Daniel Ramirez, said that Mista had approached his niece Bernie Ramirez, who rejected him. He immediately slapped her and was asked to leave the bar, but shortly returned with a gun.
Police did not mention how many rounds Mista fired that night, before he ran off and was apprehended shortly.
In an emotional sentencing on the afternoon of Tuesday, Feb. 17, Chavez and family members of the other victims addressed the court, some speaking directly at Mista, who sat quietly and simply answered yes or no to Judge Ansted’s questions.
“We hope one day you realize what you did and repent,” said Ramiro Sanchez’s mother, Julia. “I forgive you for what you’ve done.”
Some of the victims’ family members said they were relieved they would not have to go through the pains of a jury trial, which would last at least two weeks. Many also said they did not want to hear details of the tragic case.
“This has been over our heads,” said Veronica, Daniel Ramirez’s widow. “It would have been two weeks of torture. It doesn’t bring them back.”
David Klucas, Mista’s attorney, and Sandusky County Assistant Prosecutor Lorrain Croy agreed to the life sentence as part of the plea deal, though they had been prepared for trial. The prosecutor’s office wanted to have the victims families’ backing before making a plea deal. Klucas had suggested offers in the past that would not have carried a harsh enough sentence, Croy said.
After discussions continued Tuesday morning before jury selection began, Croy and Klucas reached a deal that the families approved, which gives Mista the life sentence.
Other details, including Mista’s lack of connection with the victims or his version of what happened that night, were not offered. The evidence against him included 41 witnesses, video surveillance, and a blood sample from the Last Call Bar. The investigation, led by Fremont police detective David Bliss, provided “a solid case,” Klucas said.
Mista came to the US as a tourist in 2000, and was living in Fremont illegally.
Philippine consular officials, who reached out to make sure the accused rights were protected, said that Mista had told them he worked at a local tomato company while his mother was living in Germany.
(With reports from GMA News, Philippine Star, Inquirer, Sandusky Register, and The News-Messenger)
(LA Midweek February 25-27, 2015 Sec. A pg.1)