SANTA ANA – A man who stabbed a fellow concert-goer to death during a punk show at the Underground DTSA was sentenced Monday to 11 years in prison, with a judge noting that his apparent fascination with knives turned what could have been a quick fight into a tragic death.
During a two-day, often-emotional sentencing hearing, Juan Angel Rivera offered his apologies for killing 23-year-old Nathan Alfaro during a March 2016 concert in downtown Santa Ana, telling Alfaro’s family member and Orange County Superior Court Judge Patrick H. Donahue that it had led to “a terrible ordeal for both families.”
“A sub-conscious action resulted in this regrettable outcome,” said Rivera, now 23, who had testified to killing Alfaro in self-defense. “I wish this tragedy had never occurred.”
Rivera noted that both he and Alfaro were devoted music-lovers who attended countless local shows, although they did not know each other.
“I feel like if we had met under other circumstances, we could have gotten along well,” Rivera said.
More than a dozen friends and family members of Alfaro, many of whom attended every day of the month-long trial, remembered him as a big-hearted, hard-working, self-taught musician and songwriter who was always there for support.
“My heart has been shattered,” said Karina Alfaro Tapia, Alfaro’s mother. “I will never be able to attend his college graduation, his wedding or see his children. My son had dreams. They were taken from him.”
Brenda Contreras, Alfaro’s aunt, read to the court a paper Nathan wrote after his first semester at college about his goals, which included getting a business degree and saving up to start a music venue.
“My goal is to keep jamming until the day I die and see what happens along the way,” Alfaro wrote. “I want to be the best and nicest person I can be to everyone.”
Rivera’s family begged the judge for leniency, describing him as a devoted family member and a loving father to his young daughter.
“I know if my brother could take it back, he would in a heartbeat,” said Ruth Rivera, Juan Rivera’s sister. “It is a tragedy for all of us. And I know from the bottom of my heart he wouldn’t hurt anybody.”
That Rivera stabbed an unarmed Alfaro to death at the punk show was never challenged.
A first altercation between the two broke out when Alfaro was apparently angered by Rivera’s attempts to start a mosh pit. The first fight was stopped by other audience members, but the…