District court judge John Pope sentenced Manuel Vasquez, 32, of Grants to 23 and one half years on several charges including child abuse resulting in the death of his 2-month old son Bryan Vasquez. The district attorney's office and Vasquez's attorney, Angela Lujan, of Albuquerque and Vasquez agreed to a plea agreement that would limit his prison time to less than 24 years.
The plea agreement stipulated that Vasquez would serve 18 years for child abuse resulting in death, 18 months for possession of a controlled substance, 18 months for escape from the McKinley County Detention Center in July, with four years added for being a habitual offender. All the terms are to be served consecutively by Vasquez, limiting his chances for an early release.
Security at the district court was extremely tight with armed law enforcement officers from the New Mexico State Police, Cibola County Sheriff's Office and correctional officers from the Cibola County Detention Center present in the courtroom. Undersheriff Johnny Valdez coordinated the officers' efforts to prevent a reoccurrence of attacks on Vasquez by family members and to prevent any chance of escape by the prisoner.
The mother of Bryan, Tracie Valdez, her mother, Tita Valdez, her brother Frank Valdez and wife Bernadette and other family members were in the courtroom holding posters with pictures of Bryan Vasquez.
Tita Valdez was allowed to read a letter to the court prior to sentencing that asked judge Pope for the maximum sentence.
"I sit with my daughter Tracie and together we cry," she told the judge. "I watch her suffer constantly tell me how much she misses her Bryan and wants him back. Nothing will ever bring our precious Bryan back."
The child's grandmother them directed her speech toward Vasquez who was seated behind her.
She turned to him and said, "I would like to know what you were thinking the moment you killed our Bryan? Why didn't you walk a few steps to my door and leave him with me? Why did you have to take out your anger on him?'
Vasquez seemed unmoved and stared at the floor.
Concluding her address to the court, Valdez said, "I despise you and I pray you rot in hell. On judgment day, Manuel, you will have to answer for what you have done." - John T. Felty