HOUSTON (KIAH) — A 21-year-old Houston man who was shot in the face during a home invasion that left the homeowner dead has been sentenced to 30 years in prison, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Tuesday.
Jonathan Vera pleaded guilty to one charge of murder in exchange for 30 years in prison for his role in the fatal shooting of 55-year-old Silvano Cortez. Because Vera was a juvenile when he committed the crime, he was not eligible for the death penalty or life without parole.
“Innocent families should not have to live in terror that violent men will burst into their homes with guns demanding money and valuables,” Ogg said. “These men knew exactly what they were doing, and spending decades in prison is the consequence for those actions.”
Prosecutors said that Vera and another man broke into the Greenspoint-area home where Cortez and his wife were sleeping on Oct. 19, 2017. Cortez got up and the two men demanded money.
Cortez had a small apartment in his backyard that he rented out. Hearing the commotion, the tenant came to help, pistol in hand, and a struggle ensued. Vera told the man he was with to shoot Cortez, and he did it, prosecutors said.
Vera and the other man fled as Cortez’s tenant fired his gun at them, hitting Vera in the right cheek as he got into a waiting SUV.
About 45 minutes later, the same SUV dropped Vera off at the emergency room of LBJ Hospital because of the gunshot wound to the face.
After being treated, Vera left the hospital and fled. He later returned and was charged with capital murder.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Meriwether said the plea deal was the right result so the family could get justice.
“Mr. Cortez was a hardworking family man who had children and grandchildren that he will not get to see grow up,” Meriwether said. “There was no reason to break into that family’s home. They were completely innocent.”
The shooter and possibly a third person who may have been driving the getaway car have yet to be identified. Anyone with information on the identities of those people is urged to contact Crime Stoppers of Houston at 713-222-TIPS.