With no hesitation this time, Carbondale restaurant owner Fredy Cabrera pleaded guilty Friday to the fatal shooting of his stepdaughter’s boyfriend outside an apartment near Glenwood Springs last summer.
Cabrera, 40, listened carefully as 9th District Judge Denise Lynch instructed him of his rights regarding a plea agreement. With each question he responded, “si,” indicating that he understood the consequences of accepting the deal and that he was giving up his right to a trial.
It was the second time this week that the plea deal was offered by Ninth District Attorney Sherry Caloia. On Tuesday, Cabrera was expected to take the offer exchanging a first-degree murder charge for second-degree murder. He reconsidered at the last minute and decided he instead wanted to go to trial.
At the Friday hearing, Cabrera took responsibility for shooting and killing Douglas Menjivar the night of July 31, 2013, in an apparent fit of rage over Menjivar’s relationship with Cabrera’s stepdaughter, Leydy Trejo.
The dropped first-degree murder charge carried a possible sentence of life in prison without parole. The reduced charge will result in a likely sentence of between 16 and 48 years with the possibility of parole.
“I am responsible for the death of Douglas Menjivar,” Cabrera told the judge in Spanish through a court interpreter. He added that he “hopes the (Menjivar) family forgives me.”
Sentencing was set for Oct. 1, a day that was already scheduled to be part of a three-week-long trial in the case.
The deal also includes the dismissal of a first-degree assault charge stemming from injuries Trejo sustained during the shooting.
The defense is requesting that Cabrera be allowed to maintain telephone and written contact and have video visitations with Trejo while he is in prison.
Trejo was not in the courtroom for the Friday plea hearing, as she has begun college at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction where she will be studying to become a nurse, said her mother, Vilma Cabrera.
Kathy Goudy, one of Cabrera’s two attorneys, said she will seek a sentence in the range of 16-20 years.
“That’s on the bottom edge of the range,” Goudy said, adding she will request a presentence report to help determine the level of danger Cabrera poses to the community based on any past convictions or probation violations.
Caloia said after the hearing that she believes the case has enough aggravating circumstances, namely the use of a gun, to justify a sentence of more than 24 years.
Speaking with reporters outside the courtroom, Vilma Cabrera she was pleased with the outcome, and said she was as surprised as anyone when her husband rejected the deal earlier this week.
“It’s the best option he has,” she said in Spanish, through translation provided by Veronica Whitney, editor of El Montanes Spanish-language newspaper.
Vilma added that her husband may have thought that a trial could result in fewer years in prison even if a not guilty verdict wasn’t likely.
“This way he is at peace with himself,” she said of his accepting the plea.
At the time of the shooting, Cabrera was reportedly upset that Trejo, who was still 18 and in high school, had moved in with the 21-year-old Menjivar.
Menjivar had worked for Cabrera at his El Horizonte restaurant and the family’s copy and printing business in Carbondale. The Cabreras have since sold the copy business and a second restaurant in Glenwood Springs, but Vilma continues to run the Carbondale restaurant.
By admitting that he shot and killed Menjivar after waiting for the couple to return to the apartment, Cabrera spared Trejo having to testify against her stepfather at trial. At a preliminary hearing in February, Trejo was at first hesitant to say Cabrera was the shooter, but later said she knew it was him.
Menjivar died en route to the hospital from multiple gunshot wounds. Trejo was shot in the leg during the incident and ended up in the hospital for several days.
Vilma Cabrera said she and the family were surprised that her husband would react in that way, since it appeared just the day before the shooting that he and Menjivar had worked things out, with Cabera even asking Menjivar to return to work at the restaurant so he could support Trejo.
Vilma added that Trejo still loves her stepfather and has forgiven him and that Trejo wants to maintain contact with him after sentencing. Until then, Cabrera will remain in the Garfield County Jail without bond.
Vilma, 36, said she relies on the support of her four children and her faith in God to carry on after the incident.
“I am responsible for the death of Douglas Menjivar,” Cabrera told the judge in Spanish through a court interpreter. He added that he “hopes the (Menjivar) family forgives me.”\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\tFredy Cabrera