Two sisters weeping for a brother who suffered an awful death at the hands of a young stranger. A mother sobbing as her son is sentenced to prison for 15 years.
This morning Judge Kaleb Cockrum sentenced Bronson Moon Lewis Jr. to 25 years to life and Daniel Armendariz III to 15 years for killing 42-year-old Julius Tripp, who was first mutilated and then shot off state Highway 96 between Hoopa and Weitchpec.
“You didn’t know Jules Tripp,” his sister Renee Ferris told the 20-year-old Lewis today. “It was you Jules was worried about.”
Ferris said her brother was “bothered so much” by a young generation with no respect for the law and no fear of prison. He didn’t want these kids to learn the hard way, the way he did.
Tripp was asleep in his camper on a roadside turnout when Lewis, Armendariz and three other teens pulled up in Lewis’s truck. First driver Dale Mabry bumped into the camper. Then Lewis and Armendariz began banging on the windows.
“When (Jules) stepped out of that truck and said ‘What the hell are you doing?’ it was a question,” Ferris said. “He was worried about you guys. He was worried about your age group. He cared about you guys.”
After Tripp threw a rock that shattered the windshield of Lewis’s truck, he ran down the road with Lewis and Armendariz in pursuit. They followed when he went over a roadside bank. Lewis first chopped off Tripp’s hand or arm with a large knife. Then Tripp was left alone in the dark while the teens drove back to Hoopa to get an assault rifle. Lewis then shot Tripp dead.
Ella James, another of Tripp’s sisters, warned the killers they’ll never escape what they did.
“It’s horrible what you have done to these communities,” James said to Lewis.”You’ll forever feel this. Spiritually you will never be right again. I want you to understand that.”
Lewis did not want to make a statement. He stood there, at times looking sullen. It was apparent his silence was a further blow to Tripp’s family.
When it came time for Armendariz’s sentencing, Deputy District Attorney Trent Timm had some words for him. Timm said Armendariz came from a stable home, with parents who had been married 20 years and were both employed. Armendariz worked during high school.
“Mr. Lewis in a lot of ways has ruined Mr. Armendariz’s life,” the prosecutor said. He noted that when Lewis was stabbing Tripp, and later when Tripp was shot, Armendariz was right there.
“You could have stopped what occurred and you didn’t,” Timm said.
He challenged Armendariz to apologize, unlike Lewis.
Armendariz’s attorney Jennifer Dixon said that when Armendariz was interviewed by a probation officer, he accepted responsibility and expressed sincere remorse.
Renee Ferris, addressing Armendariz, said she knew nothing about him and asked “Why were you even in my town?”
Armendariz lived in Klamath but was visiting in Hoopa at the time of the killing in August 2020.
“The only thing I know about you is that you allowed — or went along with — someone to kill my brother,” Ferris said. “What kind of person does that?”
She prays every day “that God will help me not hate you two.”
Ultimately Armendariz did speak, saying he was sorry for the Tripp family’s loss of “a brother, uncle, cousin.”
But he said apologizing a million times won’t bring Tripp back. He said he and Lewis were young “and made some mistakes.”
Also, he defended both he and Lewis as being more than killers.
“Mr. Lewis and I know who we are,” Armendariz said with some defiance. “We know what we’re capable of.”
Armendariz’s parents and two young siblings were in the courtroom audience, with his mother crying throughout the hearing.
“Love you baby,” she cried as her 21-year-old son was led from the courtroom. “I love you,” he responded.
As Lewis exited the room, he let go of one small sigh.
Lewis is represented by attorney Russ Clanton. Lewis pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder, with Armendariz admitting to voluntary manslaughter.
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