Suspect’s sentencing postponed in homicide of El Camino College student

A sentencing hearing for Sonita Heng, 22, was postponed until the conclusion of the case against Ethan Kedar Astaphan, 28, for the murder of 21-year-old El Camino College student Juan Carlos Hernandez. Heng is a cooperating witness for the prosecution in the case against Astaphan.

On Sept. 22, 2020, Hernandez went to work as a “budtender” at the unlicensed V.I.P. Collective marijuana dispensary located at 8113 South Western Avenue.

That was the last day his family saw him alive. Nearly two months later, his body was found at an isolated location in the Mojave Desert.

The sentencing hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at Clara Shortridge Foltz Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.

Heng was originally charged with felony accessory but due to a plea deal, she will be sentenced to 112 days in jail. Heng’s jail sentencing was completed when she was first detained with 56 days served at half time, plus two years probation.

Los Angeles County Assistant District Attorney Habib Balian informed the court that Heng’s sentencing would be postponed until after the conclusion of the trial against Astaphan.

Astaphan has been charged with first-degree murder and is being detained on $10 million bail. He is facing a maximum prison sentence of 25 years to life for one count of first-degree murder.

The third defendant in the case, Weijai Peng, fled to Turkey where he is now detained and is fighting extradition to Los Angeles.

Another hearing is scheduled for July 14.


Editor’s Note: Updated story to provide accuracy on May 12, 2022, at 6:38 p.m.