ALAMOSA — By giving the wrong person a ride on the morning of June 23, 2016, David Silvas became an unwitting accomplice to murder.
Silvas, 40, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to an accessory to a crime charge for which he will likely receive a two-year deferred sentence. Sentencing is scheduled for December.
Silvas’ attorney Ann Kaufman explained to District Judge Michael Gonzales, who accepted Silvas’ plea on Wednesday, that her client received a phone call “out of the blue” from Kelvin Ruybal as he was driving home in his van from his girlfriend’s house about 6 a.m. the morning of the incident. Ruybal asked Silvas if he could pick up a friend at a gas station and give him a ride. Silvas agreed. The person who needed the ride, it turned out, was Lonnie Cooper, 43, who would later shoot Floyd Dale McBride, 52. Cooper has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Silvas did not really know Cooper, Kaufman said, but he picked him up, and within a couple of minutes Cooper saw two people he knew walking down the street and told Silvas to stop.
(Testimony in this case related that Cooper apprehended the two because he believed they could tell him who had stabbed his son Brian, who showed up at the Alamosa hospital early that morning with a stab wound. McBride’s shooting is believed to be retaliation for McBride’s stabbing of Lonnie Cooper’s son.)
When Silvas stopped to pick up the two additional passengers, he noticed that Lonnie Cooper had a gun. Cooper told Silvas to drive to a location where Cooper’s truck was parked. Kaufman related that Cooper broke a window in that vehicle to retrieve another gun and told Silvas to drive him (and the two additional passengers) to the Cooper residence, which Silvas did.
Kaufman said Lonnie Cooper then asked Silvas if he could use his van for a couple of hours.
“Mr. Silvas, who at this point is very afraid, says OK,” Kaufman told the judge. “He has no idea what the van was going to be used for.”
Cooper then gave Silvas his son’s car to drive home.
“Mr. Silvas never got the van back. He had no idea what happened,” Kaufman said. “He didn’t really know these people … Mr. Silvas never saw the van again.”
(The van was used to transport McBride after Cooper shot him.)
Assistant District Attorney Ashley McCuaig added that Silvas met with Lonnie Cooper in an attempt to get the van back and Costilla County law enforcement later contacted Silvas to ask him about the van because Cooper had “spun a story about an injured deer” to explain why there was blood in the van.
McCuaig said Silvas was charged in this case because he did not report what he knew immediately, but he has since agreed to cooperate and testify if necessary in any remaining cases related to the McBride murder. McCuaig said that will not likely be necessary, as most of the defendants have now pleaded in this case.
“We’re down to effectively one case, possibly two,” McCuaig told the judge.
McCuaig added, “We are giving a deferred because Mr. Silvas was a victim in this case to some extent.”
Silvas also has a very minimal criminal record.
McCuaig told the judge the victim’s family, while wanting everyone involved to receive maximum sentences, understands that Silvas’ role was very limited.
Judge Gonzales accepted Silvas’ plea to accessory to a crime and reviewed the plea agreement, which calls for a two-year deferred sentence. At the end of that time if Silvas has complied with all conditions of the sentence, the guilty plea will be withdrawn and the conviction will be removed from his record. If he fails to comply with sentencing terms and conditions, he would be resentenced on this charge, which in the normal sentencing range carries 2-6 years in prison or Community Corrections.
Judge Gonzales told Silvas that if after receiving the pre-sentence report from the probation department and reviewing the case he decided the two-year deferred sentence was not appropriate, he would allow Silvas to withdraw his plea, since his plea was based on the agreement he would receive a deferred sentence.
Judge Gonzales scheduled sentencing for December 20.