OGDEN — Daniel Garcia knew he was going to prison.
The 18-year-old embraced family members before appearing in an Ogden courtroom Thursday to be sentenced on one count of attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.
Garcia was only 16 when he used a revolver and shot into an Ogden home in the early morning hours of Aug. 13, 2017. The shooting resulted in the death of Maria Sanchez, a 47-year-old Ogden resident, who was shot in the top her head while she slept.
Both Garcia and another teen, Trevon Zamora, were charged with murder in Ogden’s 2nd District Court. However, Garcia had the charge reduced as part of a plea agreement. Either way, Garcia will spend at least the next decade in prison, as a judge sentenced him to a term of 10 years to life in a Utah state prison.
Garcia’s attorney, Emily Swenson, said her client was going to make the best of it, indicating Garcia would be working to earn his GED while in prison. Garcia was still in high school when the shooting took place, and the school wouldn’t allow him back after he was charged, Swenson said.
Since Garcia posted bail shortly after the shooting, Swenson said that Garcia has tried to maintain jobs, but has not had any long-term success. He’s been on an ankle monitor since he was released from custody.
Deputy Weber County attorney Michelle Jeffs said that it’s been just over two years since Sanchez was gunned down, killed while sleeping in her bed just inches from her boyfriend.
“This is the type of crime that changes a community,” Jeffs said. “This type of crime makes people afraid.”
Two of Sanchez’s family members spoke and addressed the court Thursday.
One of Sanchez’s daughters said she was 15 when her mother died, and she remembered the day well. She texted her mother to have a good day, something she didn’t normally do. It ended up being the last time she spoke with her mother.
“People say it gets easier, but it hasn’t,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s fair.”
A sister of Sanchez expressed her anger toward Garcia through a translator as she spoke in Spanish, shaking as she clutched a microphone.
“I am never going to forgive you for what you did,” she said. “You may be young, but your heart is rotten to the core. You are a demon, a monster.”
Judge Jennifer Valencia said one question has stuck in her mind since the shooting: why? She said it didn’t make sense to shoot into someone’s home in the dead of night. Another burning question was where was the murder weapon, a revolver.
“There was clearly more coordination with this other than you and Mr. Zamora,” Valencia said.
Later Garcia addressed the court, speaking slowly and carefully. He said he thinks about the shooting daily, adding he even knew one of Sanchez’s daughters. He said his own mother’s name is Maria.
“I live with it every day that someone has died because of me,” Garcia said. “I’m sorry, even if it has no meaning... This was such a senseless act.”
As to Valencia’s question about the gun, Swenson said Garcia would prefer to answer that question privately.
Before Valencia sentenced Garcia to spend at least the next decade in prison, she expressed her condolences to Sanchez’s family, saying there were no amount of words that could express the loss they have suffered.
“I wish more than anything that this had not happened,” she said.
Valencia told Garcia that prison is not a place where she would want a teenager to be, but the decision to send him there was already made.
“You made a decision at 16 that took the life of an innocent woman,” she said. “You are going to be a the prison for the foreseeable future.”
She hoped that Garcia would make good on his desire to obtain a GED and better himself, saying where he goes next is up to him.
“You can be more than this decision,” Valencia said.
Garcia was led out the courtroom in handcuffs, family watching as he exited the room.
The teen was booked into the Weber County Jail on Wednesday afternoon, and he will later be transferred to the Utah Department of Corrections to begin his prison term.
Zamora, the other defendant in the case who reportedly acted as a lookout during the shooting, was sentenced in August to a term of five years to life in prison.