Three men sentenced in 2015 robbery, shooting death of UK student

Krueger_Jonathan Palmer.jpg
Posted at 12:09 PM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 09:06:26-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After seven years, the sentencing hearing for the three men convicted in the shooting death of Jonathan Krueger took place Thursday, less than a month after all three pleaded guilty.

A judge sentenced Roman Gonzalez to 35 years in prison, Justin Smith to 34 years, and Efrain Diaz Jr. to 20 years, including time served.

Friends and family of Krueger’s spoke very emotionally about their loved one during the sentencing hearing Thursday. His sister said not a day has gone by that she hasn’t felt his loss.

“As a sister I was promised a lifetime of memories with my brother. Instead his life was cut painfully and unnecessarily and tragically short," said Elizabeth Roberts.

Krueger's mother said she’s been waiting seven years for this moment, speaking candidly about the moments after she and her husband found out what happened.

“It’s so different being a victim’s family member," said Mary Kruger. "When this happened I knew someday I wanted to tell Jonathan’s story. it took much longer than I thought, but I had my chance. And I hope I did it well."


Three men charged in a robbery and shooting that killed a UK student have pleaded guilty Thursday morning.

Justin Smith, Roman Gonzalez, and Efrain Diaz Jr. pleaded guilty in connection with Jonathan Krueger's 2015 death. Krueger was the photo editor of The Kentucky Kernel, UK's student newspaper.

Gonzalez pleaded guilty to murder and two counts of robbery. Smith pleaded guilty to manslaughter, two counts of robbery, and evading police. Diaz pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery.

The trial has been pushed back several times due to the pandemic and a question about the death penalty that went all the way to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

While it was a consideration before, the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office said that it would not seek the death penalty.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for April 28.