A Rapid City man was sentenced Thursday to 45 years in prison for taking the life of a young man over what the judge and prosecutor called a "minor" and "petty" dispute.
"I'm so tired of sentencing young men who carry weapons" and use them inappropriately, Judge Jane Wipf Pfeifle said before handing down her sentence to Maricelo Garcia at the state court in Rapid City.
The 22-year-old was sentenced after pleading down to first-degree manslaughter for killing 20-year-old Clinton Farlee. Garcia was initially charged with first-degree murder.
A murder conviction would have carried a sentence of death or life in prison, while the manslaughter crime has a maximum punishment of life. But Wipf Pfeifle agreed to the joint request of the prosecution and defense to sentence Garcia to no more than 45 years as part of his plea deal. She gave him credit for 558 days he spent in pre-trial detention. Garcia was also ordered to pay $21,261 in restitution.
Farlee's family and friends filled the court room to capacity on Thursday. Some supporters wore matching light blue shirts with Farlee's photograph on the front and the slogan "Justice for Clint" on the back with crossed pool cues, representing the sport that Farlee enjoyed.
Farlee's mother, Kayla, said her son was "very family-oriented," had many friends he fed and housed when they needed help, attended gifted academic summer camps and won state billiards contests. He enjoyed traveling, loved sports and the outdoors, took hunting safety classes, cared for his sick great-grandfather, and planned to take over the family ranch one day.
Our family has the "life sentence" of living without our loved one, Kayla said. "Everything is so different" when the family gets together now since there is an "empty seat." Clinton's son, who was born two months after Clinton was killed, will now grow up without a father, Kayla added.
Garcia showed up to Farlee's Rapid City home carrying a gun on Oct. 3 and 4, 2017, to confront him over a "petty" dispute involving women, said prosecutor Lara Roetzel. Farlee ignored Garcia both times — a testament to his character, Roetzel said — but on the second day, Garcia followed Farlee up to his apartment, kicked down the door, shot Farlee in the chest and fled.
Roetzel called the shooting a "senseless act that cannot be understood," saying that Garcia himself had positive characteristics, dreams and a supportive family. She asked the judge for a 45-year sentence.
Garcia has taken "full responsibility" for his actions and never once asked for pre-trial bond, said Matthew Rappold, one of his defense lawyers. Rappold did not request any specific sentence but asked for one that would focus on rehabilitation. He said his client is young, remorseful, intelligent and willing to participate in treatment, so rehabilitation will benefit him and the community.
"I'm truly sorry" and hope you can forgive me, Garcia said as he faced the tearful Farlee family. He also apologized to his own family and said he loves them.
Wipf Pfeifle said she considered Garcia's age, saying the brains of people in their early 20s aren't fully developed. But she said she disagreed with Garcia's argument that he made a split-second decision when shooting Farlee.
She said Garcia chose to show up at Farlee's home two days in a row with a loaded gun and follow Farlee upstairs. She said he had an earlier chance to change when he was previously convicted of illegally caring a concealed weapon.
Wipf Pfeifle said a 45-year sentence is fair because it was already merciful to agree to that when some family members wanted Garcia charged with murder and sent to prison for the rest of his life.
Farlee died in the hospital after being shot by Garcia. Garcia and Cierra Walks were apprehended two days later after being found in a remote area on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Walks pleaded guilty to being an accessory to a crime after admitting in a signed factual basis document that she drove Garcia away from the homicide scene and failed to report him to police. She is scheduled for sentencing April 24 and could be sent to prison for up to five years.