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Man sentenced 40 years to life in prison for Marine's Gaslamp stabbing death

Posted at 12:03 PM, Jul 28, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — “I’m living a life sentence, my baby, my child. I can never bring him back. It hurts so bad it’s a living nightmare. How dare you take his life you have no right,” says Kelly Weaver the mom of Ryan Harris.

Harris, a Camp Pendleton Marine, was killed during a brawl in the Gaslamp District. Weaver was addressing 41-year-old Jose Esqueda, one of two men convicted of killing Harris.

This was right before the Judge sentenced Esqueda to 40 years to life in state prison. During that hearing the Judge called him a “Cold Blooded Killer.”

Esqueda was convicted of first-degree murder for the death of 21-year-old Ryan Harris, who was stabbed in the throat on Dec. 29, 2017. Another Marine, Andrew Haulman, suffered stab wounds to his chest and back during the altercation with Esqueda, but survived his injuries.

In May, the second defendant in this case Jeff Holliday was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

RELATED: Man sentenced in killing of Camp Pendleton marine in Gaslamp District

Deputy District Attorney Christopher Lawson told jurors that Esqueda and co-defendant Holliday were wandering the Gaslamp around 1 a.m., looking for victims, a pattern he said was exhibited in a pair of hold-ups the men took part in earlier in the year.

The prosecutor said the men cased the downtown area for a potential victim before settling on Christopher De Herrera, who was by himself at the corner of Island and Sixth avenues.

As seen on surveillance footage, Esqueda and De Herrera exchanged words, after which Holliday punched De Herrera in the head from behind. Four of De Herrera's fellow Marines witnessed the altercation and ran over to intervene, leading to the stabbings of Harris and Haulman.

At Esqueda's sentencing hearing, Lawson said Harris' time in the Marines was nearly completed and he was seeking a career in law enforcement at the time of his death.

"But because of the defendant's choice on the night of this tragedy to go out and terrorize, to hunt for a victim, for no other reason than to inflict pain and suffering ... because of those actions and those choices, we'll have to wonder what Ryan's life could have been," Lawson said.

Among Harris' loved ones who spoke at the hearing were his grandfather, Larry Holt. He described the heartache he must now life with forever.

“Our house will never be the same. My heart will never be the same, what I’ve lost what the world has lost. We’re here for justice not revenge. We’re here for justice for Ryan,” said Holt.

Esqueda addressed the court and the victim's family members, saying "I cannot express any amount of apologies that will take the pain away."

Esqueda said "I may have not been the person I needed to be," but said he would use his prison time to "get myself together and make a few adjustments. Maybe become a citizen that I need to be."

Along with the fatal stabbing, the men were convicted of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery in two separate incidents that occurred in Pacific Beach and Chula Vista earlier that year.

The pair were found guilty of stealing a bicycle from a couple in Pacific Beach on April 15 and accosting shoppers on April 29 at the Chula Vista mall.