Jul. 13—A woman found guilty of firing a fatal shot into a group of young people gathered in a backyard on Hopewell Street in 2019 was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison.
State district Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer handed 65-year-old Beverly Melendez a total of 15 years but suspended three years of the sentence and gave Melendez two years of credit for time she has spent in jail since the incident.
Melendez was found guilty of second-degree murder in May for the September 2019 death of 19-year-old Rodrigo Enriquez-Garay. Jurors found she had intentionally fired a rifle at a small backyard party at a home on Hopewell Street adjacent to her own residence, striking Enriquez-Garay. He was rushed to the hospital by his twin brother and friends but was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Sommer said Melendez's lack of criminal history and a letter she had read to the court before her sentencing, which showed she is taking accountability for her actions, played a role in the decision to suspend part of the sentence.
Sommer said Melendez had plenty of opportunity to address her problems with the party that night before firing into the crowd.
"As time proceeded, you decided to take the most extreme action, and that was to just shoot into the crowd that was there," Sommer said. "I appreciate that you did take accountability today. I hope that the family appreciates that."
Melendez, who appeared at the sentencing hearing via Zoom from the Santa Fe County jail, offered a short statement to Enrique-Garay's family.
"I specifically wrote this in an effort to only include the family," Melendez said. "This isn't about me right now. This is about the family and the pain they are going through, and I sincerely hope they can heal."
Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Stuart and Enrique-Garay's family had requested the maximum 15 1/2 years in prison for Melendez.
"The family will be affected for their entire lives," Stuart said. "They have received a life sentence."
Melendez's defense attorney, Shelby Bradley, sought a shorter suspended sentence with supervision, saying Melendez was physically and mentally unfit to spend time in prison.
Bradley read letters from Melendez's cousin outlining a history of abuse she experienced. According to the letter, Melendez has post traumatic stress disorder and other impairments.
Bradley noted nonsensical statements Melendez made to law enforcement after the shooting, including a claim that the party-goers were conducting a ritual sacrifice.
"This is not the clear thinking of someone who had the intent to take a life that night," Bradley said. "This is someone who is going under a traumatic episode that has not been addressed."
Stuart said Melendez's health issues are unfortunate, but prisons do provide medical care.
Melendez's attorney already has filed a request for a new trial. Bradley had attempted to postpone the sentencing hearing until after the motion was heard, but the court denied the request.
The motion seeking a new trial for Melendez will be heard at a later date.