Victim’s family hopes to change youth-sentencing law

Sharna Johnson

The family of an Eastern New Mexico University student fatally shot by a 13-year-old neighbor say they plan to try to change the laws for youthful offenders in memory of Angel Vale.

Convicted of her murder, D’Angelo Montoya was sentenced June 6 to the custody of the state Children Youth and Families Division until he reaches the age of 21. It is the maximum sentence allowed by law because of his age.

Prosecutors said he shot 21-year-old Angel Vale three times with a gun he had stolen from her home after she stumbled upon him in her yard July 22, 2010.

Under state law, a child 14 or younger cannot be charged as an adult, even in the case of violent crimes. They are not classified as crimes, but instead as an act by a delinquent child.

By law, Montoya could be sent to a group home or treatment foster care to serve his sentence. He will more than likely end up in a long-term facility, said Enrique Knell, CYFD spokesman.

“Because of what he was convicted of, he’s going to be in a long-term facility at (the Youth Development and Diagnostic Center in Albuquerque) to fulfill his sentence,” Knell said. “I don’t believe that we would send somebody who’s convicted of such a serious crime into a group home or foster care.”

Either way, Vale’s older sister, Monique Sambrano, said she and her family plan to write letters to state leaders in an attempt to garner support to change the law in her sister’s name.

“I just feel like kids maybe 20 years ago would be different, but they’re not the same anymore. Kids are not kids anymore,” she said. “People will remember. Because of Angel, that law will be changed.”

Her frustration is that Montoya will be back in society just eight years from now.

“I won’t stop until we can do something about that,” Sambrano said. “It’s not going to help my sister’s case, but if we can get that law changed maybe it can help somebody else.

“It bothers me that he was not being tried as an adult because I could have understood if it had been an accident — any normal child would be afraid. (But) he acts like nothing happened. I don’t really feel like it’s harsh. What he got wasn’t enough justice for what he took because he did it for no reason.”

District Attorney Matt Chandler acknowledges the feelings of Vale’s family.

“There’s no such thing as justice for a victim’s family in a murder case,” Chandler said. “A guilty verdict in a murder case doesn’t bring the victim back and a life sentencing doesn’t give the family complete closure.”

Chandler said if the courts had more discretion on juvenile crimes it could better aid the state in rehabilitating youthful offenders.

“I can attest that juveniles seem to be intentionally committing violent crimes at younger ages than they were 20 years ago,” he said.

“If the range was lowered to include 13-year-old offenders, it would give the court an opportunity to review the offender’s history and make an informed decision if incarceration past the age of 21 is needed to allow additional time to rehabilitate so that the community is protected from future acts of intentional violence.”

Sambrano said her sister was a kind person and had talked about feeling sorry for Montoya.

Sambrano, who said she and Vale talked multiple times daily, talked to her sister a few hours before she died. Vale, she said, was moving out because she was concerned about a recent break-in at her home.

“She was already kind of paranoid. She was just trying to hurry up and move out,” she said. “I think about her being scared going through that.”