Man sentenced for killing Maricopa County jail officer in 2013

Convicted cop killer Leonard Culling Moreno was charged as an adult.
Convicted cop killer Leonard Culling Moreno was charged as an adult.(Arizona's Family file)
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 11:03 AM MST

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) — A Phoenix man was sentenced to 24 years in prison on Friday for his convictions for manslaughter in the 2013 killing of a Maricopa County jail officer and for aggravated assault in the shooting of someone else two days later at a party.

Authorities say Leonard Moreno, then 15 years old, fatally shot Detention Officer Jorge Vargas as the officer was in his driveway. The shooting happened on August 8, 2013, exactly nine years ago as of Monday.

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone released the following statement to mark the sentencing and somber anniversary:

“Officer Jorge Vargas was 27 years old when he was murdered. He was a member of the MCSO family since the age of 19. His son was 5 when Officer Vargas died in August of 2013. The sentence today does nothing to offer justice, deliver closure nor heal the broken hearts left behind from his loss. A lesser deserving, selfish and violent criminal will one day return to a free society. That is the cold hard truth. Yet, in this truth Officer Vargas’ legacy as a public servant and a father will shine bright and his perpetrator can never take that from Jorge’s selfless legacy.”

Moreno has already spent nearly nine years in jail. Friday, he was sentenced to 14 years for the count of manslaughter and another 10 years on the aggravated assault charge. Court documents say the time will be served concurrently, meaning he’ll serve 14 years at most.

Vargas’ family members said they feel enduring pain from the death and criticized the lenient term of Moreno’s plea agreement. Prosecutors said the deal was offered because of issues with both the facts of the case and the availability of witnesses.

Vargas was an eight-year veteran who worked for the sheriff’s Custody Support Bureau in a jail food factory. He is survived by his wife and son, who is now 14 years old.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.