OAKLAND -- Angelique Arvizu, her boyfriend, Darrell Smith, and his friend, Jeffrey Simpson, believed they had an easy score when they plotted the robbery of Lamont Couch.

Instead, the robbery two years turned deadly. On Thursday, Arvizu, 23, Smith, 25, and Simpson, 24, were sentenced to serve hard time in prison after taking plea deals that allow them to eventually seek parole.

Though the three can seek parole in the future, none will be eligible for at least 16 years. Simpson, the defendant who actually shot Couch, will not be eligible for parole until 2058.

The deals the three reached included sentencing agreements that were declared Thursday. Under those agreements, Arvizu was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison after she was found guilty of second-degree murder, Smith was sentenced to 23 years to life after he was found guilty of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and Simpson was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison after he was found guilty of first-degree murder and use of a gun causing death.

The three reached a deal on the eve of a murder trial, when their confessions to police were going to be presented to a jury along with text messages the three sent to each other detailing aspects of the crime. Seeing the evidence against them was overwhelming, defense attorneys and a prosecutor agreed to a deal that Alameda County Superior Court Judge Vern Nakahara said Thursday was fair.


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"There was not an issue of innocence or guilt in this matter. There was more than enough evidence to convict all three," Nakahara said. "It was really clear to me that this was a case that we should try to resolve."

Deputy District Attorney Tim Wellman said he agreed to a deal because it guaranteed that each defendant would get a life term in prison and, at the same time, allows Couch's family to have a quicker resolution to the murder case without going through the emotional pain of a trial.

That pain was evident Thursday as several family members spoke.

"This sentence today is nothing," said Anita Ford, Couch's sister. "There is no sentence that these people can give you here today. I hope you suffer."

The robbery planned by the three was sparked by Arvizu and Smith, who both noticed Couch in their East Oakland neighborhood. Couch, a former city of Oakland employee, frequently drove a Mercedes and flashed rolls of cash.

Arvizu and Smith decided to rob the 34-year-old Couch and plotted a scheme in which Arvizu pretended to be romantically interested in Couch and then lured him to an ambush after a date.

Waiting in ambush were Smith and Simpson, a trained security guard who was included in the scheme because he owned a gun.

Smith and Simpson ran up on Couch just seconds after Arvizu left Couch's car. But, in a surprise move, Couch fought back and, in the struggle, Couch knocked a 9 mm handgun from Simpson's hands.

Eventually, Smith picked up the gun and handed it to Simpson who then shot Couch in the back.

Couch was able to drive away but crashed his car into a fence. He later died as a result of the gunshot wound to his back.