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OTTAWA — A former Earlville man who shot and killed an intruder has been convicted of federal charges and will eventually be deported to Mexico.
Friday, La Salle County prosecutors dropped the sole remaining charge against Joel V. Contreras, 48, of rural Earlville. Contreras had been facing a felony charge of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon.
Friday’s dismissal means La Salle County prosecutors are done with the shooter who felled a California man during a 2012 break-in of his home. Prosecutors now turn their full attention to a second intruder who survived the exchange of gunfire. Contreras never was charged with murder for the shooting death of 22-year-old Raymond Maldonado of Turlock, Calif., as Contreras was defending his home. However, police found 40 marijuana plants in Contreras’ basement and then discovered he had felony drug convictions in California and Missouri (and even had been deported from the United States), which precluded him from legally owning a gun.
Contreras pleaded guilty in July to production of cannabis plants and was sentenced to a period of non-reporting probation plus 180 days in La Salle County Jail, with time served. Wary prosecutors also agreed to hold the weapons charge in abeyance, cautiously banking on federal authorities to prosecute Contreras for illegally re-entering the United States.
Friday, prosecutors disclosed in open court that Contreras was, in fact, convicted in U.S. District Court, so they dropped the gun charge. Terms of the federal sentence were not disclosed and Contreras does not yet have an entry in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The focus of the La Salle County case now returns to a second intruder — the one Contreras didn’t kill.
Marcus E. Samarripa, 24, of Turlock, was picked up on Ottawa’s north side some time after he fled the Contreras break-in. He initially was charged with home invasion but later was charged with felony murder.
Though it was Contreras who killed Maldonado, it is Samarripa who is deemed culpable for his death. Samarripa is charged under the legal theory that committing a forcible offense makes the culprit responsible for any death (victim or suspect) to occur at the scene.
Samarripa faces 20-60 years in prison if convicted of felony murder. He remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bond.
Contreras agreed, as part of his plea, to testify at Samarripa’s pending murder trial. Samarripa next appears Jan. 23 for a status hearing.