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Jury convicts 20-year-old in shooting death of Citrus Heights teen

Erik Ozee, Facebook, Citrus Heights
An October 2014 profile photo of Erik Ozee from his Facebook page, about 8 months before he was fatally shot.

Sentinel staff report–
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday the conviction of Mario Andreas Contreras in the killing of a Citrus Heights teen, who prosecutors said was shot in the head.

A news release from the DA’s office said Contreras, then 18, approached a group of young people on May 31, 2015, seeking Erik Ozee, who he thought may have robbed him. Ozee, 16, ran from the group after Contreras asked for him, and was subsequently chased down and shot in the head by Contreras.

According to news reports at the time, a neighbor recalled hearing six shots fired during the incident, which occurred on the 5600 block of Skyridge Drive in Orangevale. Ozee was pronounced dead at the scene and Contreras was arrested the following day.

Nearly three years later, a jury convicted Contreras of first-degree murder with the use of a gun in the killing.

A public Facebook group called “Remembering Erik Ozee” was set up shortly after Ozee’s death and still features regular posts from family and friends in memory of the teen.

“I never even considered you not being here; not once did the thought enter my mind,” wrote his father, Scott Ozee, in the group last year. “Now I no longer have the privilege of being a part of your life, I realize what a gift I was given to have you call me your dad; you loved me more than anyone ever has and I had no idea what the value of that love was… Rest easy Erik Ozee, know you are the greatest son a dad could ever have I miss you every day.”

Contreras faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office. He is scheduled for a June 15 sentencing hearing before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Savage.

Why do some convictions take so long?
Rob Gold, assistant chief deputy district attorney for Sacramento County, told The Sentinel in an email that “the pace of a criminal court case is generally dependent on a defendant’s exercise of his speedy trial rights and the availability of his lawyer.”

“While the People also have a constitutional right to a speedy trial, it is the defendant that usually controls how rapid a case proceeds,” said Gold. “In a felony case, a defendant has a right to a preliminary hearing in 10 days and a jury trial in 60 days. Thus, a defendant who is arrested for a felony could insist on their time rights and conceivably have a jury trial in less than two-and-a-half months. More often however, particularly when charges are serious, a defendant will waive their speedy trial rights to allow their attorney to prepare their defense and also fit their case into the attorney’s existing caseload. Serious cases commonly take a year or more from arrest to trial. A person charged with a misdemeanor is entitled after their arraignment to a trial within 30 days if they are in custody and 45 days if they are out of custody.”

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