The 20-year-old Cheyenne man who killed a teenage girl in January with an accidental but preventable gunshot has been sentenced to 15-20 years in prison.
It's a harsher penalty than outlined in his plea agreement because he violated the terms of the agreement while out of jail on bond.
Tirso Munguia was handling a 9 mm pistol while sitting in the back of a car behind Angelina Harrison, 16, as he and other friends rode through Cheyenne on Jan. 9.
“Be careful, there’s one in the head,” said Cody Nicholson, who had produced the gun while sitting next to Munguia, according to court documents.
Munguia was still handling the pistol and it went off, striking Harrison in the back of her neck. She was unresponsive and bleeding, and later died.
District Court Judge Edward Buchanan sentenced Munguia to 15-20 years in prison during a Monday sentencing hearing, and imposed court costs and fines, $5,000 in public defender’s fees and just over $6,000 in restitution, Laramie County District Attorney Sylvia Hackl told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
“It was a difficult sentencing to sit through even as the district attorney,” said Hackl. “I can’t imagine how those in the courtroom, who were related to Angelina Harrison, must have felt. ... It was unbelievably moving.”
Praying It Wasn’t True
Amanda Harrison, Angelina’s mother, delivered a powerful victim impact statement.
“I hope and pray that my baby was unconscious and didn’t feel any hurt, pain or suffering,” said Harrison, who provided a copy of her victim impact statement to Cowboy State Daily. “Our family is serving the ultimate sentence, a life sentence, a life without Angelina.”
Harrison had just spoken with her daughter an hour before the shooting. She didn’t know it would be their last conversation.
Amanda Harrison and her husband were just leaving a dinner outing together that night and drove toward the mall to pick up dog food for a new puppy they’d bought in October for Angelina.
Suddenly, police cars flew past.
“I immediately felt like something was wrong. My stomach dropped and my heart was racing,” said Amanda.
She turned to her husband and told him to follow the police cars. They checked the girl’s phone location and saw she was at the mall. They started calling and texting their daughter.
No one responded.
The parents pulled into the parking lot just as police taped off the area around the exact location their daughter’s cellphone displayed when they pinged it.
“All we could see were two figures, a male and female, standing in between two police vehicles,” said Amanda. But the woman was not Angelina.
A figure lay on the ground under a white sheet. Frantically, the parents asked police what was happening. Amanda raced through the mall and parking lot, scanning both areas for her daughter. The parents kept calling and texting the girl.
They soon learned that they’d arrived on scene within 10 minutes of emergency personnel pronouncing their daughter dead. When Amanda got back outside to the scene, an officer said, “I’m sorry,” while carrying the girl’s phone in a paper bag.
“At that moment it felt like I lost complete control of my body,” said Amanda. “I fell to the ground screaming and crying and I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. I was face down on the pavement and praying that it wasn’t true, that Angelina was OK, or was going to be OK— praying that if it was true that God would take me instead and let Angelina live.”
Bond Violation Added Years
Munguia originally had signed a plea agreement offering him a sentence of between eight and 12 years in prison. Then he was released on bond.
But his plea agreement stated, as many of them do, that if he violated the terms of his bond, then prosecutors would no longer be bound to the prison term outlined in the agreement.
Munguia violated the terms of his bond.
Bill Edelman, Laramie County deputy district attorney, spoke with Munguia’s defense counsel before the sentencing hearing and the defense acknowledged Munguia’s bond violation and breach of the plea agreement, Hackl said.
Why Judges Sentence
Munguia’s attorney emphasized that he’s a young man without a criminal history and that the shooting was a tragic accident, Hackl related.
Just before delivering Munguia’s sentence, Judge Buchanan discussed the factors that are supposed to guide sentencing judges.
Those are: rehabilitation, retribution, deterrence for the defendant and for the whole community, and protection of the public.
Buchanan emphasized the need to deter the community, other prospective defendants and other young people from mishandling guns.
“To me it was impactful, hearing him make a specific comment that we need to deter this behavior on the part of so many – particularly our younger people, who think playing with guns is just something you do,” said Hackl.
Cody Nicholson, charged with being an accessory after the killing for fleeing the scene and hiding the gun, is set for sentencing later this autumn.
Sarah Heath, 26, was sentenced last month to between 32 and 36 months in prison for being an accessory after the fact to manslaughter; and to three consecutive 180-day sentences for furnishing alcohol to minors. Another 180-day sentence for possessing marijuana is to run simultaneously to the first 180-day sentence, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.