Crime

Teenager will serve at least 12 years in prison for fatally shooting 16-year-old boy

In a tearful courtroom on Friday morning, a district judge ordered 17-year-old Juan Menchaca Olvera to spend at least 12 years in prison for the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old.

Menchaca Olvera, of Nampa, was charged with first-degree murder and robbery in the shooting of Roberto “Robert” Angel Gomez in 2018. He was tried as an adult despite being 16 at the time of the shooting, and he was found guilty of both charges by a jury.

Third District Judge George Southworth sentenced Menchaca Olvera to a minimum of 12 years on the murder, with an underlying sentence of life in prison. He was sentenced to three to seven years for the robbery conviction, but that will run concurrently to his murder sentence.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years, per Idaho state law.

The robbery charge stems from the defendant’s stealing of money and a gun from Gomez prior to the shooting.

Gomez was shot on Sept. 25, 2018, outside a Nampa home near 11th Avenue North and Powell Avenue. Four adults and four juveniles were initially charged in connection to Gomez’s death, including Menchaca Olvera’s family members.

Gomez’s family spoke to the judge at sentencing about how Gomez’s death has affected them. One of Gomez’s sisters said she knows Menchaca Olvera and considered him a friend before the shooting.

“He was an amazing and a comforting person,” the girl said about the defendant. “He is not the monster that everyone is making him out to be.

“He is a child. Just like myself, just like Robert.”

Canyon County deputy prosecutor Brad Knell recommended that Menchaca Olvera be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison. Knell noted that the defendant fired the gun seven times after waiting for the victim, shooting Gomez three times.

Deputy public defender Abigail Thiry focused on her client’s youth, his developmental delays and the negative influences in his life. She asked Southworth to “temper justice with mercy.”

Thiry said the lack of development in Menchaca Olvera’s life played a role in the decisions he made. His mother, Maribel Menchaca, is accused of encouraging the attack on Gomez, and she has been in and out of custody during the boy’s youth.

Maribel Manchaca was initially indicted on a first-degree murder charge in the killing, but that was later dismissed. She still faces charges for aiding and abetting robbery and battery, and is awaiting trial.

Jose M. Menchaca, 39, who is Menchaca Olvera’s uncle, was accused of going to the location of the shooting with Menchaca Olvera and is awaiting trial on suspicion of aiding and abetting robbery.

Thiry said her client struggles academically, and because of his age, the frontal lobe of his brain has not fully developed. The lack of development impairs his decision-making skills and a lack of foresight.

She also noted that Menchaca Olvera’s juvenile record was relatively minimal, and any disciplinary action he faced was mostly an effort to seek attention. His parents were incarcerated at some point as he grew up, and his father offered him drugs at a young age, according to Thiry. He was surrounded by adults who showed an inability to control emotion and who were involved in street gangs, she said.

Lastly, while asking the judge to impose the minimum sentence of 10 years, Thiry said her client has hope of being better, but right now is weak, broken and troubled.

“Those three things are obvious from the situation he was put in. But there is light, and light can drive out darkness. Let’s feed that light,” she told the judge.

“This child is facing facing life in prison, yet he still talks about a high school diploma.”

The judge spent time talking about the age of both the victim and the defendant, and how the adults in their lives seemed to play a negative role in their decisions.

“This is and was a horrific, senseless act,” Southworth said. “Two children ... with similar backgrounds. They were both gang members of the same gang, both raised with unstable home lives, family members were gang members, drug use from a young age, both essentially lacking in stable adult role models.”

Southworth said Menchaca Olvera will be incarcerated at the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections until he is 21, and then will transferred to an adult prison.

Being at IDJC will help the defendant focus on finishing his education, and sending a 17-year-old to an adult prison would “open the door to victimization,” the judge said.

“Juan is not a monster, even though he committed a monstrous crime.”

Co-defendants

  • Jose M. Menchaca is charged with suspicion of aiding and abetting robbery and has pleaded not guilty. He awaits trial.
  • Jose A. Menchaca, 17, of Nampa, pleaded guilty to perjury on May 14 and was sentenced to serve a rider program with a four-year underlying sentence.

  • Gabriel Hernandez Olivo, 16, of Caldwell, pleaded guilty on May 8 to accessory to a felony, intimidation of a witness and evidence destruction. He was sentenced to serve a rider program with a five-year underlying sentence.

  • Olivia Hernandez-Santana, 35, of Caldwell, pleaded guilty to witness intimidation was sentenced to probation and jail time.

  • Elizabeth Esparza, 28, of Caldwell, is charged with accessory to a felony, aiding and abetting robbery, and perjury. She’s pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.

  • Another 16-year-old from Nampa was initially charged in the case, but those charges have since been dismissed by the prosecutor.

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Reporter Ruth Brown covers the criminal justice and correctional systems in Idaho. She focuses on breaking news, public safety and social justice. Prior to coming to the Idaho Statesman, she was a reporter at the Idaho Press-Tribune, the Bakersfield Californian and the Idaho Falls Post Register.
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