Convicted killers sentenced in child’s death

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks District Attorney Matt Chandler, left, argues in Monday’s sentencing hearing of Demetrio Salas and David Griego, for the 2005 shooting death of Carlos Perez. Seated at right are Salas, his attorney, Gary Mitchell, Griego and his attorney, Roger Bargas.

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

PORTALES — An attorney for a convicted killer said his client was remorseful about the 2005 shooting death of a 10-year-old Clovis boy and deserved a suspended sentence to give him a chance at rehabilitation.

District Attorney Matt Chandler argued David Griego’s remorse meant little since he took no responsibility actions a jury convicted him of, plus he had chances at rehabilitation after three separate felony convictions.

“Those would have been the times to change,” Chandler said, “not on the day of sentencing for the murder of a child.”

District Judge David Bonem sided with the district attorney at Monday’s hearing, sentencing Griego, 31, to the maximum time allowed — 16 years — for second-degree accessory to murder. Chandler said his office also intends to seek to add an additional eight years to Griego’s sentence in a separate hearing on repeat offender circumstances.

Co-defendant Demetrio Salas, 22, was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years for his role in the murder of Carlos Perez and the attempted murder of his teenage brother, Ruben Perez. Salas must serve 30 years before he can apply for parole on the life sentence, and would then serve 10 years for attempted murder and other charges.

Salas’ attorney, Gary Mitchell, and Griego’s attorney, Roger Bargas, plan to appeal.

Three family members of the victim spoke during the victim impact portion of the hearing, telling the court “Carlitos” did nothing to deserve his fate at the hands of Salas and Griego.

“We’ll never know,” aunt Jessica Hernandez said. “We’re all going to ask ourselves, ‘What would Carlos look like now? What would he be now?’”

Hernandez called Salas and Griego “cowards” for waiting until the early-morning hours when the Perez family had no chance to defend itself.

“I miss the figure in the bed,” said aunt Ninfa Navarro, speaking on behalf of Perez’ mother, Lupe Perez, “where time after time he was reassured he would be safe there. Since Sept. 15 (2005), our home is not home without Carlitos being there.”

Chandler called for the maximum sentences for Salas and Griego because neither had shown signs of remorse despite their convictions.

“They’re cold-blooded killers,” Chandler said, “and they don’t deserve any leniency from this justice system.”

Salas did not speak in the hearing, opting to reserve statements until his appeal. Griego said he wished he could have done more to stop the killing and would trade places with Carlos Perez if he could.

“I would never wish death on nobody — not a 10-year-old, not an adult,” Griego said. “God bless you all.”

Bonem said he had made some difficult rulings through his years, but this case stood as one of the most difficult.

“Difficult because two families are shattered by the events which resulted in the death of a child,” Bonem said. “Difficult because the obvious hostility that separates these families still remains. Difficult because what I do here has little to do with the future and deals more with the past.”

According to trial evidence, Orlando Salas, then 15, wanted to fight Ruben Perez, then 17, at Clovis High School the day before the shooting. The fight never occurred, but Orlando Salas recruited Demetrio Salas and David Griego to search for Ruben Perez.

Demetrio Salas and Griego found where Perez lived and fired nine rounds into the bedroom window. Ruben Perez was not hurt, but one bullet hit Carlos Perez in the head while he was sleeping.

The trial was moved to Portales because of pre-trial publicity.

Orlando Salas earlier pleaded guilty to accessory to first-degree murder, attempted murder and tampering with evidence for his role and was sentenced in April 2006 to the custody of the state Children, Youth and Families Department until the age of 21.

Edward Salas, 23, and Noe Torres, 28, are scheduled for trial in connection with the case Feb. 4-15 in Portales, court records show.

Torres is still at-large.