SEBRING — Daniel Luis Galarza, 21, the last of a trio of defendants convicted in the shooting of two Avon Park men on Marble Avenue in 2018, was to be sentenced Monday, but a judge postponed sentencing until Oct. 8 at 8:30 a.m.
A jury in mid-July convicted Galarza of trying to kill two men after his two codefendants pointed him out in court as the shooter in a marijuana deal trap.
Circuit Court Judge Peter Estrada, who has received a presentence report, will send him to jail for attempted first degree murder with great bodily harm, attempted felony murder with a deadly weapon, and attempted robbery with a firearm. Each of the first two charges can bring as much as 15 years in prison; the third charge requires a judge to impose a minimum prison sentence of 34½ months.
The victims in the shooting – one hit in the shoulder, the other injured so badly he had to be airlifted to Tampa General Hospital to save his life – told Highlands County detectives that three men, two of whom wore hoodies, had approached them outside a house on Marble Avenue. They asked to buy marijuana, but the victims broke and ran when one of the “buyers” pulled a revolver from his waistband and started firing.
Galarza’s co-defendants in the shooting – Tory Swain Daniels and Sebastian Martinez – testified against him during Galarza’s two-day trial. Swain-Daniels, who was 18 at the time of the crime, had remained in jail from the date of the shooting in December 2018 until June 2020, when he pled guilty to the crimes. He was then released on bond until he was sentenced to six years of probation in August. He was also deemed a violent felony offender of special concern.
Martinez, who also fled the county, was caught trying to cross from Texas to Mexico in November 2019. He also was extradited to Highlands County. The youth’s charges included two counts attempted first degree murder, possession of weapon, ammunition/concealed by a delinquent felon, and attempted robbery with a firearm. Detectives searched his house after the shooting and found marijuana and smoking tools, giving him possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia charges.
After Martinez agreed to testify against Galarza, Estrada sentenced him to juvenile maximum imprisonment until he turns 21. Once he serves that sentence, he has to serve 200 hours of community service. Martinez also faces a two-year suspension of his driver’s license.
If he breaks probation after getting out of juvenile incarceration, prosecutors left an attempted first degree murder charge hanging over his head.
Judges consider the results of presentence investigations and other factors when determining the final sentence. Galarza fled to Wilson County, North Carolina, after the shooting and had to be extradited to Highlands County to face charges – which Estrada can consider.