By Sharna Johnson, Freedom New Mexico
Tears flowed freely in District Judge Teddy Hartley’s courtroom Tuesday as child killer Edward Salas was sentenced to prison for at least 68 years.
“Ultimately, it’s senseless — the most senseless thing I’ve seen in the time I’ve been on this bench. … When I learned that you guys lined up two feet from that window and emptied a gun into this little boy’s bed, I couldn’t believe it,” Hartley said of the 2005 shooting of 10-year-old Carlos Perez.
“(I believe it is part of a judge’s job) to look for any reason, any glimmer of hope as to why the maximum sentence should not be imposed. I could find none here,” he said while staring at Salas.
Hartley sentenced Salas to life in prison, plus 56 years. The 24-year-old Clovis resident will serve a minimum of 68 years before parole is possible.
Salas was the fourth person — and third brother — to be sentenced for murder in the shooting.
Defense attorney Stephen McIlwain of Albuquerque asked for leniency for his client. As “someone who did not commit the act directly, his sentence would be greater than anybody else in this case,” he argued.
Hartley dismissed defense notions that prosecutors never proved who fired the gun that ended Perez’ life.
“It doesn’t matter who fired the shot. … As far as I’m concerned, you stood there and shot him yourself,” Hartley said. “I’d honestly give you more if there was more to give.”
Chastising Salas for not being a better brother to his two younger siblings who are also imprisoned for their roles in the case, Hartley told the crowded courtroom that he has anguish for both families, recognizing that nobody “puts their (family) up to something like this.”
Salas did not address the court at the hearing.
When asking for the maximum sentence, District Attorney Matt Chandler told the court Salas has shown no remorse for his part in the murder.
Chandler referred to pre-sentence paperwork in which Salas maintains his innocence, asking the judge for mercy and “advises the court how difficult this has been on him.”
“He has absolutely no accountability,” Chandler told Hartley.
Perez’ aunt Ninfa Navarro, the only family member to speak, told of the fifth-grader’s smile and loving nature and the hole his death left in the family.
“I hope every day when you get up and every night when you go to bed, you will be haunted by what you have done to this little boy, this family, to the community, and not only that, look what you have done to your mom and dad. You ruined their lives,” she said.
Excerpts of letters to the judge read by District Attorney Matt Chandler:
“Carlos was a gentle heart… His smile and energy filled the room. Our kids lost the innocence of childhood.”
— Carrie Nigerville, principal, Cameo Elementary School
“Why did those people have to do that to them. Why did they have to take him?”
—Unnamed Cameo Elementary student
“Since then there is a piece of (our) hearts missing”
— Norma, aunt of Carlos Perez
“Nothing has been the same since that phone call on September 15”
— Erica, victim’s cousin talking about learning of his death.
“My baby was fighting for his life. I miss him so much. I miss not being able to hold him… I miss that little figure tucked in his bed where time after time, he was told he was safe.
All I ask is justice be done. These defendants came and ruined our lives without knowing us and took my baby away,”
— Lupe Perez, mother of Carlos Perez
Others in the case:
• Orlando Salas, 18, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to charges related to the shooting in exchange for testimony against his brothers. He is in the custody of the Children Youth and Families Department until age 21.
• Demetrio Salas, 22, was sentenced in January to life in prison plus 10 years for first-degree murder. He will be required to serve a minimum of 40 years.