Published: Oct 05, 2012 5:12 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 05, 2012 5:17 PM EDT

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - A Tampa Bay area man has been sentenced to life in prison for his part in a triple-homicide.
    
As part of a deal to avoid the death penalty, 22-year-old Esteban Merchan pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
    
Authorities say 22-year-old Vincent Thomas, 22-year-old Tony Black and 21-year-old Rafael Guadalupe were found dead in a Hillsborough County home in December 2009. Investigators believe the murders were gang-related.
    
Last year, 18-year-old Prentiss Jackson received a life sentence for his role in the killings.

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