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Crash victims family upset with plea deal on Glenwood accident

Pete FowlerPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Elvia Silva hates to think of her sisters 6-year-old daughter growing up without her mother.Her sister, Maria Barrigan Silva, 21, was killed by a man who she rode with as a passenger in a drunk driving accident in August. Elvia Silva, her five remaining siblings and the rest of her family dont like the fact that the driver who pleaded guilty to the crime has signed a plea agreement recommending he spend 15 months in jail.Its especially frustrating for them because theyve read that the prosecutor, Bonnie Roesink, specially appointed from the 14th Judicial District, was under fire for another case in Steamboat Springs. Roesink prosecuted two men in 2006 who admitted taking produce from the Sweet Pea Produce store. They were sentenced to six months jail time, but ended up getting released after 10 days. The men maintained they took food only from the trash area outside the store, but the DAs office there contended the men stole fresh produce from inside the store, the Steamboat Pilot & Today reported.Its not fair, and its not right, said Elvia Silva. (Roesink) should go by the statute and not decide to give six months jail for stealing from a garbage can and one year for vehicular homicide.Police said the white Nissan Maxima Barrigan Silva was a passenger in crashed into a concrete retaining wall at about 86 mph in the parking lot of the Oasis restaurant around 7 a.m. The driver, Patricio Mellin Tapia, 28, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide, DUI, driving under restraint for a previous alcohol related offense and failure to provide immediate proof of insurance.He pleaded guilty in February to vehicular homicide, DUI and driving under restraint. He hasnt posted a $100,000 bond and remains in the Garfield County Jail under an Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold, according to the Garfield County Combined Courts office.The plea agreement recommends 15 months jail and three years probation. The presumptive range of sentences for the vehicular homicide count alone is four to 12 years in prison and fines from $3,000 to $750,000. That applies if a judge found prison reasonable over a lesser sentence.No one in this family is happy with it, Silva said, adding her family hasnt gotten a good explanation from Roesink.After the jail time, supposedly hes going to be deported, Silva said. But hes going to come back like everybody that comes back. So that means you can commit a crime in this country, be deported to your country, and come back and commit another crime just because you got a year of jail?Roesink was appointed as a special prosecutor because Silvas sister works for the 9th Judicial District Attorneys Office in Glenwood Springs. She couldnt be reached Wednesday or Thursday.Bill Schubert, Mellin Tapias attorney, said Mellin Tapia has no prior felonies but its a virtual certainty he will be deported. If he re-enters the U.S., he would be violating the law, which would violate his probation, which would lead to a four- to twelve-year prison sentence, Schubert said.I know the family is very upset and understandably so, he said. They lost a loved one. My client is very upset. He was very much in love with this young lady and this has been a tragedy for everybody.He added, I think ultimately we have worked out a resolution that is consistent with other types of cases in this area.Greg Greer, who served as a public defender for about 25 years and now operates a private criminal defense practice in Glenwood, said the presumptive range of sentence isnt an absolute guideline and even no jail time is possible for a vehicular homicide count.Its really nothing more than a framework to provide an orientation to everybody in the criminal justice system for what the landscape is on the range of sentence, if in fact it is a sentence to incarceration, he said.Chief Probation Officer for the 9th Judicial District Shawnee Barnes said vehicular homicide is one of the toughest crimes to sentence consistently and sentencings have been all over the board in Colorado. But she said vehicular homicide victims and their families generally seem to have a lot of input in the cases.Mellin Tapia faces sentencing May 12.Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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