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TMCNet:  Final defendant in Toppenish robbery gets 18 months

[January 31, 2013]

Final defendant in Toppenish robbery gets 18 months

Jan 31, 2013 (Yakima Herald-Republic - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- YAKIMA, Wash. -- The last of four defendants in a Toppenish robbery case that was cracked thanks to DNA from cigarette butts was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison.


Rosenda Sophia Strong, 26, of Toppenish had a low criminal history and received a light sentence because she agreed to testify against the other three defendants in Yakima County Superior Court if necessary, deputy prosecutor Sam Chen said.

Strong and co-defendant Nelida L. Garcia, 29, of Yakima were accused of participating in a robbery by luring a 42-year-old man from Legends Casino in September 2011.

Sheriff's detectives said the man was ambushed on a dirt lane off Becker Road by two men who had been waiting in another vehicle. They beat him and took his wallet and his money -- $47.

The man later showed detectives the scene. Several spent 9 mm shell casings -- one of the assailants fired several times in the air, the man said -- were recovered along with several cigarette butts. A number of footprints were noted.

The cigarette butts were submitted to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for testing, where matches were found for three people from Toppenish, based on DNA already on file: Strong, Sergio Cervantes, 22, and Daniel Cardenas Cervantes, 29.

That evidence, combined with security video from the casino, led prosecutors last year to charge all three with robbery. Garcia was added to the case later.

Cervantes, identified by detectives as Garcia's boyfriend, pleaded guilty to a first-degree robbery charge last month and was sentenced to 51 months, or just over four years, in prison.

Gonzalez, Strong's boyfriend, pleaded guilty to unrelated stolen-property charges and was sentenced to 33 months, or just under three years.

Finally, Garcia pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree robbery and was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

--Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or cbristol@yakimaherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ChrisJBristol.

___ (c)2013 Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.) Visit Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.) at www.yakima-herald.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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