Christopher Montoya (New Mexico Department of Corrections)
The 2020 death of a bystander killed when gunfire penetrated an Albuquerque apartment resulted in a 12½ year prison sentence Wednesday for the man who admitted firing the fatal shot.
Christopher Montoya, 28, pleaded guilty in May to voluntary manslaughter and other felonies in the shooting death of 36-year-old Elizabeth Martinez.
At the time of her death, Martinez was doing a favor for a friend who didn’t have running water at his home, a prosecutor said at Montoya’s sentencing hearing.
“Her caring nature led her to take some jugs of water to 6412 Franciscan St. NE,” where the friend lived, Assistant District Attorney Jordan Machin told 2nd Judicial District Judge Jennifer Wernersbach.
While Martinez was inside the apartment, gunfire erupted outside and a round fired by Montoya pierced the wall, fatally wounding Martinez, Machin said.
“She was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Machin said.
Witnesses said an argument about the sale of a used car sparked the fatal exchange of gunfire.
Montoya also pleaded guilty to shooting at an occupied dwelling and two counts of tampering with evidence for concealing a weapon and deleting text messages. The weapon used to kill Martinez was never found.
Wernersbach called Martinez’s death “a signature case for senseless gun violence.”
“People are afraid to be in Albuquerque and these kinds of incidents are exactly why,” Wernerbach said before handing down Montoya’s sentence.
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“I don’t know how we move past this culture of it being cool to have a gun and use it and flash it,” she said. “I can’t think of anything less cool than killing somebody who is innocent.”
Bernalillo County deputies who responded to the shooting found Martinez fatally shot in the living room of the residence, according to a criminal complaint.
A witness identified Montoya as the man who fired shots at the house from the driver’s side window of a car as he drove away from the house, the complaint said.
Officers found eight shell casings outside the apartment, apparently fired from two weapons. At least two gunshots penetrated the apartment where Martinez was killed.
Montoya’s attorney, Jason Bowles, said that another man fired a weapon at Montoya’s car, prompting Montoya to return fire.
Had the case gone to trial, “there’s a real chance there is a self-defense aspect,” Bowles said.