CALDWELL — The sister of a teenager shot in Nampa last year said her brother’s killer is only a child, not a horrible person.
Her brother, Roberto Gomez, and the shooter, Juan Menchaca Olvera, were friends. They were both 16 years old on Sept. 25, 2018, when Olvera shot Gomez several times after a conflict.
“Juan Menchaca is not a monster,” Gomez’s sister, Jasmine Castellon, said in court Friday, during Olvera’s sentencing. She said Olvera had even felt like part of the family at times. “He is not a horrible person. He’s a child.”
Olvera, now 17, was sentenced Friday to a minimum of 12 years and up to life in prison for first-degree murder. He was also convicted of robbery, which was part of the conflict that led up to the shooting.
Both boys had similar backgrounds growing up, 3rd District Judge George Southworth said. They lacked adult role models, essentially lived on the streets, used drugs, were members of the same gang and had family members within the gang, he said.
“Both had families that loved them, but families for whatever reasons, couldn’t or didn’t provide them with the kind of mentorship and learning and control that families need to provide,” he said.
Olvera’s upbringing was exactly why he needed the opportunity for programming to get his life back on track, said Abigail Thiry, one of two public defenders for Olvera. She asked for the minimum first-degree murder sentence — 10 years — with some of that to be served in the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections.
Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Brad Knell thought Olvera showed no inclination of changing from the lifestyle he was entrenched in. He asked the judge to sentence Olvera to a minimum of 25 years in prison with life indeterminate. His argument was short and to the point and only reminded the judge that Olvera had waited for Gomez to ride by on his motorcycle before shooting seven bullets at him. Gomez died in the street at the intersection of Powell and 11th avenues in North Nampa.
Thiry detailed that Olvera lacked guidance growing up, as his father was in prison until Olvera was 10 or so, and his mother was in and out of incarceration, too. Maribel Menchaca, Olvera’s mother, is facing charges of battery and aiding and abetting robbery against Gomez in the same case.
Being surrounded by a gang lifestyle, he had no example of how to behave, she said. Olvera had anxiety, struggled in school and had low self-esteem.
Thiry said Olvera’s mother demonstrated an inability to control her emotions and used her anger to fuel the incidents in this case. Maribel Menchaca had reportedly confronted Gomez earlier that day and hit him, according to previous testimony. She again returned later that day with a bigger group, which reportedly beat up Gomez. Thiry said Olvera’s mother set a bad example.
“There is hope for this kid,” she said. “Now is the time to put him on a path, when he didn’t have that opportunity since the day he was born.”
Marcie Sheffield, Gomez’s mother, said she has dealt with an array of emotions leading up to the sentencing. She has been in court for the other criminal cases and spoke at other’s sentencings. Olvera is only one of eight defendants charged in connection to the case.
“I’ve listened to some of the people be sentenced, and I have forgiven them,” Sheffield said. “I want to forgive this young man, but I just can’t yet.”
Olvera contemplated for a couple of minutes in court if he wanted to make a statement. It was silent as he sat thinking, sometimes he would whisper to Thiry. Southworth called a brief recess, but Olvera ultimately decided not to address the court. Several of Olvera’s family members or friends attended the sentencing, many of whom cried.
Southworth believed there were still gaps in the story of what really led up to Gomez’s death — details the court likely will never know, he said.
He ordered that Olvera serve 12 years before being eligible for parole. Olvera will be held in the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections until he is 21.
Four defendants have ongoing cases, including one teenager who is now being charged as a juvenile. Teenagers Jose Menchaca, Olvera’s brother, and Gabe Hernandez Olivo were sentenced earlier this year for their involvement in the case. Olivia Hernandez was also sentenced in the case for felony intimidating a witness.