PUEBLO — Leo Montoya, 24, pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Wednesday for the Sept. 2, 2015 shooting death of Isaiah Vialpando, 20.
Vialpando ‘s family is from San Luis but had moved to Pueblo. Vialpando was a member of Mariachi Tierra de Colorada and had performed throughout the San Luis Valley and the state.
Isaiah’s father Robert Cordova expressed disappointment and frustration over the sentence this week.
“We feel it wasn’t severe enough of a punishment as we wanted it to be and it should’ve been, but unfortunately our justice system... we feel like it protects the assaulters and the people that do the killing and innocent victims and their families get the short end of the stick,” Robert Cordova said. “We’re angry with the sentence but the DA’s office and the police department did what they could, but apparently it wasn’t enough. He’s going to serve some time but not nearly the time we thought he would get.”
“Isaiah was my everything, the best part of me,” his mother Melissa Vialpando said. “My heart, mind and soul were so lost immediately after losing him. Parents should never have to bury their son.”
The Pueblo Chieftain reported that Montoya agreed to plead guilty to the charge of attempted first-degree murder in exchange for a charge of first-degree murder after deliberation being dropped. Other unrelated charges and cases against Montoya were also dismissed as part of his plea agreement.
Vialpando’s family objected to the plea.
Vialpando was killed Sept. 2, 2015, in what investigators say was a case of mistaken identity. It was suspected he was targeted because of his vehicle, a silver BMW.
Investigators say Montoya was motivated by retribution after he was shot and paralyzed on Jan. 18, 2015. He believed the person responsible for shooting him drove a silver BMW.
Vialpando had just finished classes at Colorado State University-Pueblo and around 3:45 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2015, was driving around to get some food when he was shot at while still inside his silver BMW in the area of West Second Street and Court Street near the Pueblo Transit Center.
After he was struck by the gunfire, Vialpando’s BMW traveled across City Center Drive and crashed into a brick fence post in a parking lot on North Union Avenue; an area where a memorial sign for Vialpando now hangs.
He was transported to the hospital, where he later died.
District Attorney Jeff Chostner told the Pueblo Chieftain, “Cases where the defendant is gang-related frequently have inherent evidentiary problems, specifically witness cooperation. This case unfortunately was no different. We obtained the best result we could with the evidence at our disposal.”