Guadalupe Flores, eyes welling and her voice cracking, pleaded for mercy at her sentencing Friday for killing Brandon Vann, a man she called her best friend.
District Judge Stephen Quinn's response was 18 years in prison — a dozen short of the maximum 30 years District Attorney Matt Chandler sought after successfully convicting Flores, 27, of Clovis of second-degree murder.
Flores' attorney James Klipstine said he plans to file and appeal within the next two weeks, asking the court to set aside her conviction. Last week, Klipstine unsuccessfully argued for a new trial, alleging that a court clerk's decision to place all Spanish-speaking jury candidates on one panel violated the law.
The sentencing hearing was an hour and half roller coaster of emotions, Chandler methodically detailing the crime while brandishing photos of the wreckage and bodies strewn across a field that night in November 2011.
Flores, Chandler said, was enraged after spotting Anthony Mah, her boyfriend and father of their four children, partying in a car occupied by Vann and three girls. It was late. She was on her way to the store to get medicine for one of her sick children, he said.
Flores was angry, Chandler said, and tried ramming the car with her full size Chevy pickup. Mah sped away and Flores chased them through west Clovis at speeds in excess of 80 mph, ramming the car again and again, Chandler said. One of the girls in the back seat was screaming "We're going to die, we're going to die," Chandler said, while Vann was frantically reassuring them no one would be killed.
Moments later, Vann would die in an empty field under a purple flannel jacket spread across him by his girlfriend, who tried in vain to revive him with CPR.
After what police estimate was seven to 12 rammings, Chandler said, Flores clipped the Mah car one fatal last time. It veered off the road, flipping side-over-side multiple times, the force tossing bodies out of the vehicle in a cloud of dust and flying steel.
"I don't have no mercy to show Guadeloupe Flores," Vann's mother, Tamela Vann, testified over a telephone hookup to the courtroom. Brandon was her only son.
"I ask …I beg the court to please give the maximum sentence to this woman," Vann said, "before she hurts someone again…I'll never see Brandon again."
Flores listened in silent tears, a tissue wadded in one hand.
"I know there are no words that can ever replace the life of Brandon," Flores read from a statement scrawled by hand on a yellow sheet of legal notebook paper. "My actions on the night of his death are inexcusable.
"My heart will grieve for him (Vann) as well," Flores said, "he was my best friend…more like family…I, too, lost someone close to my heart. I pray that his family can find it in their hearts to forgive me."
Earlier in the hearing, Mah's brother Anthony Mah, also pleaded for mercy in sentencing Flores.
"It's very sad that I lost a friend," Mah said, pausing at times to struggle with the emotion. "This has been very hard for me and…I just ask for a little mercy on her (Flores) life.
"Don't matter what happens," he said. "It ain't going to bring Brandon back."
Quinn took about a 20-minute recess after an hour of testimony to consider his sentencing decision.
"This was a horrible tragedy and it was totally avoidable," Quinn said upon his return. "My heart goes out to the victims in this."
Quinn granted Chandler's request for the maximum 15 years in prison for conviction of second-degree murder. He also granted the maximum three-year sentence for five other aggravated battery convictions, but suspended all but one.
After the hearing, Chandler noted in a press release that Flores will be required to serve at least 85 percent of her 18-year sentence before being eligible for parole.
"Our goal at the onset of this case," Chandler said, "was not only to hold Flores accountable for her attacks, but also provide justice and some closure to the family of Brandon and the other victims involved."