GALVESTON

A Galveston County jury on Friday sentenced a man to life in prison for the 2017 killing of Francisco Esparza outside his home on FM 517 in west Galveston County.

The jury returned a guilty verdict against Santos Botello, 43, of Alvin, after less than two hours on Friday afternoon. They returned a punishment of life in prison just before 6 p.m..

Botello’s trial began on Jan. 21.

Botello was accused of shooting Esparza outside Esparza’s home on FM 517 on May 23, 2017. Botello was one of four men charged with murder in connection to the killing.

Esparza’s death was the result of a sordid series of events involving Esparza, his teenage son, Juan; and Jose Leyva, 68, one of the four men accused in the murder.

Court documents describe Leyva as a “Mexican card reader” and spiritual advisor to Juan Esparza, who was 19 at the time. Leyva’s relationship with the teenager began with prayer sessions but allegedly began to include sexual abuse in the guise of spiritual rituals, according to court documents.

Leyva is accused of ordering Botello and two other men — brothers named Jaime Posada and Ricardo Posada, to go to the Esparzas’ home after the teenager said he wanted to stop seeing Leyva.

During testimony this week, Botello told jurors Leyva had accused Francisco Esparza of molesting Leyva’s niece, and that he and the brothers had been dispatched to beat up Esparza. Instead, Esparza wound up shot to death.

The Posadas agreed to testify against Botello as part of an agreement with prosecutors, officials said. Leyva’s murder trial is scheduled to begin in April, according to court records. The brothers Posada currently have no trial dates set, according to court records.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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