Teen prostitute used as bait for robbery, leads to murder in California

FRESNO, Calif. -- A resounding pain remains for the mother of a Fresno man murdered by teenagers trying to pull off a robbery, even as the second of those teens faced a judge for punishment Wednesday.

"I think of him daily," said Velma der Vartanian. "I felt secure knowing he was only a phone call away. There are no happy holidays or family gatherings."

The mother's nightmare started at the scene of a crash in central Fresno -- at Fresno and Belmont -- in January 2016.

Police called her with the news of her son's death.

"I was in shock and disbelief," said der Vartanian. "The grief is overwhelming."

Michael der Vartanian had crashed into two cars, but police discovered he'd gotten shot before the crash.

More than three years later, his mother still can't get the images out of her head.

"I would avoid sleep because I would get heavy nightmares," she said. "The nightmares continue to this day."

Police eventually arrested four suspects -- Zachery Goodwin, April Amey, Eddie Martinez, and a 14-year-old.

They say the teenagers planned to set up someone for a robbery using a young prostitute as bait.

When Amey got into der Vartanian's car, Goodwin was right there with a gun.

Der Vartanian tried to speed away, but Goodwin killed him.

Martinez admitted to the criminal conspiracy and he'll serve a prison sentence of more than nine years.

"I'm sorry for everything that happened," he said Wednesday. "I'm working on changing myself."

The 14-year-old gave police a detailed account of the crime, which helped lead to Goodwin's conviction on second-degree murder charges.

Martinez did not testify against him. His family says he just got caught up with a friend who led him into danger he could never have predicted. His defense attorney says he has an extremely low IQ.

April Amey has already served a four-year sentence and Goodwin's punishment comes on Friday. It's expected to be at least 40 years to life in prison.

None of that can ease a mother's pain.

"No parent should endure the grief and heartache and anxiety that this senseless, horrendous act has brought me," she said. "I will never hear his precious voice again saying 'I love you, Mom.'"
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