Man gets74 years to life for murder of Skyline student

The man convicted of killing Skyline student Justin Mendoza was sentenced to 74 years to life in prison on Aug. 1.

Gerry Phongboupha, 25, was charged with one count of second degree murder and one count of attempted murder after he was convicted in April of shooting and killing Mendoza, 21, outside of a nightclub in the early morning hours of March 21, 2005. Phongboupha was originally charged with first degree murder for killing Mendoza, but Superior Court Judge Jerome T. Benson dropped the charge to second degree murder.The charges did not satisfy the victim’s family and friends, especially Denise Mendoza, the victim’s mother, who was “astounded” at the reduction.

“His sentence does not justify his crime or what he’s done,” Mendoza said. “The fact is that Justin is still gone.”

According to Mendoza, throughout the sentencing Phongboupha sat “very quiet” and “didn’t even acknowledge us”.

“I don’t expect anything from him,” Mendoza said. “He is a very troubled man who comes from an unstable home.”

Although the sentencing provided a sense of closure for Mendoza, she maintains that “Justin is always in the back of our minds”. According to Mendoza, the sentence provided little comfort.

“I feel closure in the system,” Mendoza said. “But in a way, when they sentenced [Phongboupha] to life in prison, they sentenced us as well, because he murdered my son.”

Although Mendoza is struggling to cope with the death of her son, she wants people to know that what Phongboupha did, does not define he son’s legacy.

“I don’t feel any hate anymore for him [Phongboupha],” Mendoza said. “In a way I feel almost sorry for him, but he brought this upon himself. My son was a very sweet and caring young man who had a life to live and he took that away from him.”

Denise Mendoza and her family will be scattering Justin Mendoza’s ashes in the San Francisco Bay. The memorial will be for family and close friends only. A gathering will be held shortly after which is open to the public. Details to follow.