The Napa teen convicted of shooting another youth in a parked car in west Napa last year is going to a California detention camp for the next year.
Daryl Yadao was sentenced Monday for the shooting death of his friend more than a year ago.
Robert Ratto, 19, was shot with a Glock .9mm semi-automatic handgun on Sept. 5, 2006, while sitting in a parked car with Yadao, then 16, and another 16-year-old friend. Ratto, a 2006 Vintage High School graduate, was dead by the time paramedics arrived on scene.
Yadao, who will be 18 next month, pleaded guilty in November to involuntary manslaughter, possession of drugs for sale, possession of a firearm while possessing illegal drugs and personal use of a firearm in connection with Ratto’s death.
Yadao was ordered by Superior Court Judge Ray Guadagni on Monday to Bar-R-Boys Ranch in Del Norte County until he is 19. The lock-down facility is geared at the rehabilitation of young offenders. It is a step down from the more restricted and prison-like environment of the California Youth Authority.
Details of the case and what led up to the shooting were not available since all of the court proceedings, except for Monday’s sentencing, were heard in juvenile court.
When Yadao pleaded to use of a firearm, the sentencing was opened to the public.
The day of the shooting, Ratto, Yadao and the other teen were sitting in Yadao’s car in the Collier Boulevard apartments parking lot, where Yadao lived with his mother and siblings.
Ratto was sitting in the front passenger seat. The gun went off striking Ratto once in the torso, mortally wounding him.
At Monday’s hearing Deputy District Attorney Fred Gutierrez, who prosecuted the case, told Superior Court Judge Ray Guadagni that after Yadao pulled the trigger, he fled.
“He didn’t stay to help his friend, while he was dying. He ran upstairs to his apartment, hid the gun and another pistol which police found later in his closet. He then came back downstairs, and they carried Robert up to the apartment,” Gutierrez said. “He didn’t even call 911. He called his mother, who called 911.”
Ratto’s mother, Linda Smernes, wearing a T-shirt with Robert’s graduation picture on the front of it, tearfully told the court she wanted justice for her son.
“(Yadao) ran upstairs to hide the gun while his friend lay gasping for breath. It’s not OK to kill someone and then brag about it. Please let there be justice for Robert. Don’t let his life mean nothing,” Smernes said, pleading with Judge Guadagni.
Ratto’s brother, Anthony Smernes composed himself before speaking to the court.
“I’ve done some things in my life that I am certainly not proud of, but I never pointed a gun at a friend and pulled the trigger,” he said.
Gutierrez’s statements from those who know Yadao indicated that they had seen him carry a gun, provide pills for his friends and other incidents of criminal behavior, which he said stemmed from a dysfunctional family.
Gutierrez asked Guadagni to commit the youth to CYA, saying only a year at detention ranch was not long enough for rehabilitation.
“The home of the minor is inadequate and breeds criminal conduct,” he said, adding, that if Yadao was released within a year back into the same environment, he would most likely pick up his criminal lifestyle.
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Gutierrez also talked about Yadao’s possible ties to gangs. “The defendant said he had the gun to protect himself from gang members, who he said were harassing him,” he said. “He is a danger to himself and the community. For his own welfare and rehabilitation, and safety of the community, he should be committed to CYA.”
Gutierrez said he did not believe Yadao was remorseful for the death of his friend.
“If he was truly remorseful, he would have tried to save the life of his friend and put his own welfare behind him,” he said. “But he only tried to put the blame on others. He gave investigators conflicting stories about what happened.”
Defense attorney Amy Morton argued that her client was an excellent candidate for the detention ranch.
She told the court that the district attorney’s office did not file the case in adult court, seeking a second-degree murder charge because they knew that did not have sufficient evidence.
She said Yadao was a child going through a divorce.
“The kid was left to fend for himself. The family moved into the Collier Boulevard apartment, which is gang infested,” Morton said.
She also touted Yadao’s accomplishments during his more than one year incarceration in juvenile hall.
“He has been a model inmate, earning his GED. He has assisted in teaching and helping others. We have nothing but glowing reports from the juvenile hall staff,” she said.
Guadagni called the case “difficult.”
“(Yadao) is going down the wrong path, but I give great weight to what the probation workers had to say about him. They have worked with him for more than a year. Yet I must balance public safety with the minor’s rehabilitation,” Guadagni said.
Guadagni said time spent in CYA would not provide much rehabilitation and “could even hurt him when he comes out.”
Guadagni also ordered Yadao pay about $13,000 restitution to Ratto’s mother.
“I expect you to earn money toward that restitution while you are at the camp. Although there is nothing that can ever be done to bring the victim back, I expect you, Mr. Yadao, to dedicate your life to the memory of this person you called your friend,” Guadagni said.
The outcome of Monday’s sentencing disappointed Ratto’s family.
“Two years for killing my baby brother,” Ratto’s brother shouted at Yadao as he left the courtroom.
“I think he got away with murder,” the victim’s mother said. “No justice was served today,” Smernes said. “… He gets to go to a camp for a year, and my son is dead forever.”