Gangster in Taco Bell crime spree gets 72 years
Twelve-year-old Isaiah Carrasco stood before a Mesa County judge Wednesday and asked for justice for his father.
“You killed my papa ... I loved to do everything with him,” Isaiah said, speaking to 22-year-old Christian Fuentes in the courtroom of District Judge Thomas Deister.
Two years since Jorge Carrasco Jr., 31, was gunned down while eating outside North Avenue’s Taco Bell, his surviving son has lost about 23 pounds, can’t sleep regularly and wakes up from nightmares of men shooting his dad, family members said Wednesday. He struggles in school. He’s angry.
He penned a recent letter to his father, ending with the question, “P.S., will you ask God why he didn’t tell you not to go to Taco Bell?”
Isaiah Carrasco was front and center in the judge’s thoughts Wednesday when he handed down Fuentes’ sentence.
Deister imposed a maximum 72-year prison term against Fuentes for his role in a one-day crime wave in Grand Junction on July 16, 2011.
Fuentes, formerly a resident of East Palo Alto, Calif., bowed his head as the judge announced the sentence and as sobs rose from the courtroom. A plea agreement gave the judge a possible sentencing range of between 25 and 72 years in prison after Fuentes’ guilty plea to second-degree murder, robbery, menacing and second-degree burglary.
Deister on Wednesday spoke of Fuentes’ 2-year-old daughter in California.
“You’re not going to see her grow up, graduate from high school or get married,” the judge said. “But you deprived Isaiah of his dad.”
Fuentes admitted to being a complicitor in the armed robberies of Teller Arms Liquor, 2353 Belford Ave., and Cash Advance America, 2502 U.S. Highway 6&50, and the burglary of a home in the 2600 block of Chestnut Drive. Guns stolen from the home were used to shoot and kill Carrasco, capping a 14-hour crime wave.
Fuentes and the suspected gunmen during Carrasco’s shooting, Jaime Cardenas, 21, and Fidel Silva, 25, also of East Palo Alto, Calif., were known members of the Norteno gang of northern California.
“I cannot remember in this community another incident as aggravated, violent and prolonged, as this one,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein told the judge. “And this was here because of Christian Fuentes.”
Fuentes, an acquaintance of Lester Miranda-Davis, 21, formerly of Clifton, called upon his old friend while allegedly fleeing a drug-related murder on July 13, 2011, in East Palo Alto. Fuentes drove Silva and Cardenas first to New Mexico, then to Grand Junction where Fuentes contacted Miranda-Davis for assistance, authorities have said. Miranda-Davis was sentenced earlier this year to 24 years in prison for his role.
Dispute remains about who identified a target to be shot by Cardenas and Silva on July 16, 2011, but both men made it clear they wanted a trophy killing.
“Should he (Fuentes) have gotten out of the car? Yes, he should have,” defense attorney Marna Lake said. “And that’s why he’s getting at least 25 years in prison today.”
After the shooting at Taco Bell, Fuentes, Silva and Cardenas drove to Denver and robbed a gas station there. One of the suspects fled while carrying the entire drawer from a cash register. Silva allegedly bragged about stabbing a man in Denver, prosecutors said.
Fuentes then drove Silva and Cardenas back to California, where Fuentes was arrested July 19, 2011, on suspicion of absconding parole. Hours after Fuentes’ arrest, Silva and Cardenas allegedly shot and killed 26-year-old Hugo Chavez in East Palo Alto on a city sidewalk. Silva and Cardenas were reportedly mad because they felt Chavez sold them a defective handgun, Rubinstein said. A laser sighting mounted on the gun had fallen off and was recovered by California police in the investigation of the July 13, 2011, slaying.
So where are Silva and Cardenas? The question still weighs on federal and state law enforcement in Grand Junction and California, among others.
“They may get killed in Mexico, or arrested and sent to prison in Mexico under a fake name,” Rubinstein told the judge. “And yet this family (Carrasco) has to go on wondering if this will all get brought up again.”