Victoria Estrada, right, mother of stabbing victim Victor Estrada, and friend Samantha Aguirre observe the sentencing of Joel Cordova Wednesday at the Curry County Courthouse. Cordova and the victim were childhood friends. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer
They were good friends. As boys they played sports together, had sleepovers and ate at each other’s homes. But after an argument, one of them died, the other was taken to jail.
Joel Cordova stood before the court Wednesday in a white jail uniform, wrists and ankles chained, weeping as he spoke.
“Victor was my friend. He used to wear my pants and shirts and sleep in my bed. I’m sorry, God forgive me,” he said as he looked at Victor Estrada’s family.
District Judge Teddy Hartley sentenced Cordova, 25, to 13 years in prison with five years of probation for the July 2004 murder of Estrada, who was 19.
A jury found Cordova guilty of second-degree murder and tampering with evidence on May 14, after the state charged that he stabbed Estrada in the chest with a steak knife.
The state argued at the trial Cordova was angry because he thought Estrada disrespected his girlfriend.
Cordova said it was self-defense.
“Disputes should not be settled with violence,” Hartley told the court. “I believe that it’s important for those that wish to apologize to do so; it may not make a difference in sentencing, but it should make a difference somehow.”
Cordova along with his mother and brother addressed the judge, after Estrada’s mother, aunt, brother and sister spoke.
Estrada’s sister and mother wore large, round buttons with a picture of Estrada holding his daughter in the hospital the day she was born.
“A child will grow up without her father,” the victim’s aunt, Mary Estrada told the court. “I’m a firm believer that you call the police. That’s what they’re there for. Clovis has got to stop the violence.”
Estrada’s mother cried as she spoke.
“Joel could have chosen to close the door and ask for help — we mourn for his mother, too — but she can see her son, I cannot see mine,” Victoria Estrada said.
“The violence has got to stop. Joel is a father, they have the blessing of another boy. Victor won’t see his daughter — we want Joel to get the maximum.”
Cordova’s young son and namesake, Joel, wiggled in his mom’s arms as his grandmother spoke.
Cordova’s mother stood facing Estrada’s mother.
“I apologize to Mrs. Estrada. We were friends at one time.”
District Attorney Matt Chandler asked Hartley to sentence Cordova to the maximum penalties of 15 years.
Cordova will have to serve 85% of the 13 years he was sentenced to before he’ll be eligible for parole, Chandler said Wednesday night.
Chandler said Cordova’s pre-sentencing medical assessment showed he’s prone to outbursts of anger in response to stress and that he shows little remorse for his actions.
Outside of the courtroom, Estrada’s sister, eyes glassy with tears, said she will go to her brother’s grave today. “I go three to four times a week,” she said.