Tapia sentenced to 3 1⁄2 years in DUI vehicular homicide case in Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” A man who admitted killing the woman he planned to marry in a drunk driving accident last year was sentenced Thursday to 31⁄2 years in prison and three years of parole.
Patricio Mellin Tapia, 28, has credit for 336 days already served in jail. He tearfully apologized in court and said he knows the kind of pain the woman’s family must be going through.
“The truth is I loved her a lot, and I can’t stop thinking about her and her family,” he said before hearing the sentence.
“I do believe your remorse is genuine and I hope you will be able to get this behind you and get back to your family,” District Judge Daniel Petre said later after handing down the sentence.
Maria Barrigan Silva died at age 21 after the accident in the parking lot of the Oasis Restaurant in West Glenwood Springs in August 2007. Police believe Tapia was driving the car over the speed limit while intoxicated around 7 a.m. that morning. His attorney later said the couple planned to get married and had been out celebrating at a hotel.
Mellin Tapia’s brother, Jesus Mellin Tapia, said, “I’d like to apologize for my family and everything that’s happened. … I just ask that God can calm this pain as soon as possible.”
In May, Petre denied a plea agreement struck between 14th Judicial District Attorney Bonnie Roesink and defense attorney Bill Schubert. It recommended 15 months in jail and three years of unsupervised probation. The attorneys said it was based on sentences in similar cases, but Petre said it would unduly depreciate the seriousness of the crime, in part because Mellin Tapia probably wouldn’t get to participate in probation and other means of “restorative justice” like restitution if he’s deported.
Barrigan Silva’s family members also spoke out publicly that they felt the first agreement was far too lenient and Roesink hadn’t adequately consulted them.
Roesink said previously she couldn’t comment.
The new plea agreement recommended four years in prison. Schubert took issue with Roesink first going for 15 months and later recommending four years.
“The truth is that nothing has changed except Ms. Roesink had to confront a grieving family,” he said.
Roesink said earlier in the hearing, “Frankly I had made a mistake by the plea that I had offered.”
She said she talked with the family over the phone about sentencing, but changed her mind after seeing them in person. She previously acknowledged possible communication problems over the phone.
Petre said vehicular homicides are probably the most difficult crimes to sentence. In many cases, he said, it’s a situation that could happen to all kinds of people who happen to make one very bad decision. But in this case, he added, Mellin Tapia had a history of drunk driving and had already lost his license.
“This is not one of those but for the grace of God go I situations,” he said.
Schubert has said it’s a “virtual certainty” Mellin Tapia will be deported.
Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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