Teen sentenced in fatal shooting during 2011 Lynden drug deal

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 25, 2013 

The teen suspected of killing a man during a drug deal gone bad at a Lynden home pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Thursday, April 25.

Oscar Rodriguez, 17, was sentenced to 14 years and four months in prison for the shooting death of Jesse Winchester, 22, in November 2011.

Winchester's father, Jeremiah, had set up a drug deal with Rodriguez and his older brother, Salvador, with the intention of robbing them, according to court documents. The brothers went to the Lynden home with another man, and when they entered the bedroom where the Winchesters and their friends were waiting, the man with the Rodriguez brothers left because he thought the deal was going to be a rip-off.

The Rodriguez brothers followed the man into the hallway. After hearing what he thought was the sound of the slide being pulled on a gun, Jeremiah went into the hallway. When Jeremiah pulled a gun and went to grab Oscar Rodriguez's shoulder, the teen turned and shot him in the face, then ran down the stairs.

Jesse Winchester realized his father had been shot, so he followed the brothers. He was shot twice and died at the scene after one of the bullets pierced his lungs.

The Rodriguez brothers fled to Mexico after the shooting. Oscar Rodriguez turned himself in at a border crossing in Arizona in August 2012 and was brought back to Whatcom County to face charges. Salvador Rodriguez remains at large.

Despite the fact that he was 15 at the time of the shooting, Oscar was tried as an adult because of the seriousness of the offense, his criminal history, public safety and the lack of supervision with juvenile sentences.

Family and friends of the Winchesters and the Rodriguezes filled the courtroom Thursday and there were tears on both sides, with several Winchester family members addressing the court. They described Jesse Winchester as loving, supportive of his family and a good man, and lamented the fact that they would never get to see him get married, have children and live his life.

Some asked Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Deborra Garrett to give Oscar Rodriguez the maximum sentence for the crime, but she stuck with the sentence that the prosecution and defense had agreed on. She urged Rodriguez to take advantage of the resources available in prison to become a better person.

"The only way this loss can be balanced is by you figuring out how to live your life in a way that helps others," she said.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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