BURLEY — A Cassia County judge sentenced a 23-year-old Burley man to 28 years to life in prison on Jan. 25 for killing a transmission shop owner in December 2017.

Luis Gabriel Ponce pleaded guilty to first-degree murder after a mediation hearing was held in the case.

Christopher Fassett, 58, died after being shot in the stomach and head in his shop.

“I wish I had something profound to say. This was a senseless crime and it affected the entire community,” Judge Michael Tribe said Jan. 25.

The Cassia County Prosecutor’s Office will dismiss charges of robbery and burglary as part of the agreement.

Cassia County Chief Deputy Prosecutor McCord Larsen said Fassett was “a very colorful man” and he had a “colorful past,” but people who knew him said he was on his way up in life.

Investigators testified in earlier hearings that Ponce demanded money from Fassett, who was inside the shop working underneath a vehicle.

Fassett asked Ponce if he wanted to work for him, Larsen said, and Ponce replied that he needed the money now and couldn’t wait.

Ponce’s description of what happened was “really cold,” Larsen said.

Ponce told police he searched the shop for money, but he had given Fassett $20 for some work Fassett had done for him and that money was found in Fassett’s wallet at the autopsy, Larsen said.

After he shot him, Larsen said, Ponce told Fassett he was sorry. Ponce told police that Fassett then said “help, please.”

Larsen said Ponce came into the sheriff’s office and turned himself in the day after the murder.

“It was a senseless tragedy,” Ponce’s attorney, Timothy Schneider, said. “He made a tragic decision on that day; now he’s going to pay for it maybe for the rest of his life.”

Ponce knows what he did and is willing to take responsibility for it, Schneider said.

Tribe ordered Ponce to pay $10,000 in fines, including $5,000 to the victim’s family, $1,808 to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund and $500 in public defender costs.

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