Guilty plea in slaying of child

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News Eric Salazar-Mota (left), 24, pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree reckless homicide related to the January 2016 shooting death of Austin Ramos, Jr., 5, in Rock County Circuit Court on Thursday. Two other defendants in the case are scheduled to enter pleas in the case later this and next month.

JANESVILLE - One of the four defendants charged in the January 2016 shooting death of a Beloit 5-year-old has pleaded guilty.

Eric Salazar-Mota, 24, accepted a plea agreement on Thursday morning from the Rock County District Attorney's Office and pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree reckless homicide as a party to a crime. He pleaded to a reduced charge from the original charge of first-degree intentional homicide.

Salazar-Mota initially attempted to enter a plea of no contest, but Branch 5 Judge Michael Haakenson said he would not allow the no contest plea due to the nature of the charge. After a brief discussion between Salazar-Mota and his defense attorney Eduardo Borda, he ultimately entered a guilty plea.

The charge carries a potential maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Salazar-Mota is the second of four men charged in the Jan. 22, 2016 shooting death of Austin Ramos Jr. to plead guilty in the case. On Nov. 9, Sergio R. Ortiz, 26, was sentenced to 40 years in prison with 20 years post-release supervision, the maximum allowable penalty for the charge of first-degree reckless homicide. Ortiz was identified as the shooter in the incident on that fateful night in Beloit.

Ortiz, Salazar-Mota and two other young men - Isaac Torres, 26, and Hugo Martinez, 20 - attempted to target the child's father, Austin Ramos Sr., while they were driving around Beloit because they believed he was a rival gang member. Torres and Martinez are charged with first-degree intentional homicide. Two unnamed individuals were also in the vehicle, but were not charged in the case due to their cooperation with authorities.

Records indicated the four defendants were seeking rival gang members and seeking revenge for the shooting death of Ortiz's brother, Jose Antonio Ortiz, who was shot and killed on Oct. 19, 2015, in the 1100 block of Bluff Street in Beloit. Shots were fired at the vehicle Austin Ramos Sr. was driving and bullets hit the child who was a passenger in the vehicle.

Salazar-Mota is set for sentencing on March 8. Martinez and Torres are scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 24 and Feb. 6 for plea hearings in the case, according to court records.

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