ALAMOSA — District Judge Michael Gonzales on Monday sentenced Nazzreth DeLuna, 30, to eight years in prison on a felony arson charge dating to a Sept. 18, 2017, fire that destroyed the residence of his grandmother in south Alamosa.
The judge gave DeLuna credit for 412 days served already. He also sentenced him to two years in prison to be served at the same time on an earlier menacing case for which probation was revoked.
He was not eligible for community corrections.
“I take full responsibility for everything,” DeLuna said at the conclusion of the Monday sentencing hearing.
DeLuna had originally been charged with attempted first degree murder along with the arson charge in connection with the fire a year ago at his grandmother’s home. However, he pleaded guilty to a felony arson charge earlier this year.
His attorney James Dostal on Monday asked for probation or a minimal prison sentence, and District Attorney Crista Newymer-Olsen asked for 12 years in the Department of Corrections. She said while initially restitution of $51,000 was requested for the loss of the residence, she was unclear whether the victim’s son, who is inheriting the property, will still seek restitution. The judge gave some time to sort that out.
DeLuna’s grandmother, Lorrayne Garcia, was able to get out of her house without injury after the fire started by DeLuna rendered it uninhabitable. She passed away in April at age 75.
Other members of DeLuna’s family were present at his sentencing hearing, however, and spoke on his behalf. In addition, Dostal presented to the judge statements on DeLuna’s behalf from customers of his barbershop in Pueblo.
DeLuna’s three daughters ages 10, 7 and 5 were also in the courtroom to support him but after the judge acknowledged their presence, he asked relatives to take them out of the courtroom into a separate area visible but not audible to the court for the remainder of the sentencing.
DeLuna’s younger brother Trinity asked the judge for mercy “to help him get back on the right path.” He said, “The events that occurred that day do not define who he is.”
His mother said that her mother, DeLuna’s grandmother, had raised him when he was a child and wanted him to get the help he needed. She said her mother had forgiven Nazzreth and was trying to help him.
DeLuna’s youngest sister Aeisha said, “We love and support him. We are in this together.”
His younger sister Natasha added that she loved her brother, and he was her best friend and more like a father figure to her.
Veronica Casias, who has known DeLuna since he was 5, said he had been a good father and husband and given the chance could be that again.
DeLuna’s wife Bobbi said her husband was an amazing father. He had been a good provider, she said, working long hours seven days a week at the family barbershop. She said he also provided community service to his community.
“In the end addiction is what tore our family apart,” she said, “and turned a loving and caring, devoted husband into a ghost.”
She added that recovery would not be easy, but she asked that DeLuna be given the chance to overcome his addiction.
Newmyer-Olsen said this felony arson case represents DeLuna’s second felony conviction, and with the probation violation as an aggravating factor, he could be sentenced to up to 24 years in prison.
She said the person who had been depicted as such an amazing father had had to be talked out of committing suicide by his young daughters.
“That’s the picture of someone out of control,” she said.
Newmyer-Olsen added that the fact he lost everything because of choices he made did not entitle him to destroy everything his grandmother had. He did not just destroy her home, Newmyer-Olsen said, but he took away her freedom and independence and social connections.
She said a sentence to the Department of Corrections was appropriate for community safety.
Dostal agreed this was a difficult situation where DeLuna’s grandmother lost her home. However, he said in an interview with his investigator, DeLuna’s grandmother had said she did not want him to go to prison over this.
Dostal added that DeLuna had run a successful business in Pueblo and was supporting his family, “so we know that under proper circumstances, he can be a productive citizen.”
Dostal said what started DeLuna’s spiral downward was his review of security camera footage from his barbershop in which he saw his wife with another man. Because he was embarrassed, he did not confide in anyone, Dostal added, and started using meth. He wound up at his grandmother’s house in Alamosa, got into an argument over his grandmother’s care and started a fire, not intending to burn his grandmother’s house down, Dostal said.
DeLuna spoke extensively to the judge as well. He apologized to the courts, DA, probation department and to his family and friends.
“It’s never too late,” he said. “I am still alive … I really let the devil make me believe that I wasn’t worth living, that I wasn’t worth anything.”
He said he had taken probation seriously in his earlier case, and he should have talked with probation officers when things fell apart, but everything happened so fast. He said he felt alone and tried to take his life a few times.
He said regardless of his sentence, he was going to get help.
“I wish my grandmother was here so I could tell her that I love her,” DeLuna said.
“The last conversation I had with my grandmother I told her I was sorry for everything. She told me ‘I love you. I will always love you’.”
He said he was foolish for turning to alcohol and drugs and would not do it again.
DeLuna said he would do whatever the judge asked him to, “and I am going to come out as a better man than before.”
Judge Gonzales spoke about the number of people who loved and supported DeLuna and how he had forgotten about those wonderful people when he got involved in drugs, and then getting drugs was the main thing he thought about.
The judge added that there were two different people that DeLuna was, the person who helped his community and worked hard to care for his family and the man who went off the deep end.
“You destroyed your grandmothers’ home, the lady who loved you, cared for you, supported you, was always there for you. You took everything away from her … everything she worked her life to have.”
The judge said he did not know everything that happened the night of the incident at DeLuna’s grandmother’s house, but it appeared DeLuna was on drugs and acting crazy and scary, threatening people, and he started a fire that ultimately blew up the house.
The judge said DeLuna also let down his three daughters who should not have been put through what they were. He became a danger to them, the judge said.
Judge Gonzales told DeLuna that he needed to remember they were more important to him than alcohol and drugs. “You are missing out on the best time of their lives,” the judge told him.
He added, “I hope you realize you have a lot of people that love and care for you.”
The judge said because of DeLuna’s actions in endangering people and the severity of his crime, he could not put him on probation. He said he had to consider the community’s safety and what message he would be sending to the community. He therefore had to sentence DeLuna to the Department of Corrections.