CALDWELL — A teenager who kept information from police during a murder investigation was sentenced Tuesday to up to 10 years behind bars. If he does well in juvenile corrections over the next four years, he will have an opportunity for probation when he turns 21.
Gabriel Hernandez Olivo, 17, was charged with three felonies and tried as an adult in connection to the robbery and murder of Roberto Gomez. Gomez was shot to death by Olivo’s friend, Juan Menchaca, on Sept. 25, 2018, in Nampa. The boys were all 16 at the time.
The shooting followed a string of altercations over two days, and eight people have been charged in the case. Menchaca’s sentencing for first-degree murder is next month.
Olivo was convicted of accessory to harbor a felon, intimidating a witness and concealing evidence. He initially lied to a grand jury when testifying about the case.
On Tuesday, he told the court he never expected all of this to happen.
“Maybe it was to show me what my life was becoming,” Olivo said.
He spoke about his plans to continue his education and his aspirations of becoming an agricultural engineer. Both his defense attorney, Thomas Monaghan, and Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Brad Knell thought Olivo was on the right path to changing his behavior.
Initially, Olivo played a role in impeding law enforcement’s investigation and intimidating a witness, Knell said.
He pleaded guilty in May to all three felony charges. Part of the plea deal was to provide the state with truthful testimony about the events that occurred leading up to Gomez’s death.
“The good news is, I think he’s taken the steps to change his behavior,” Knell said.
He did hold up his end of the bargain by testifying truthfully during Menchaca’s murder trial, Monaghan said. In that testimony, Olivo admitted to providing false testimony to a grand jury. That “irreversible decision” to cooperate was proof Olivo was taking the right steps to becoming a productive member of society, Monaghan said.
Olivo was close with the shooter and didn’t think twice about coming to his side to defend him, Monaghan said. The shooter’s mother, Maribel Menchaca, was like a second mom to him. She also faces charges in the case.
Cooperating with investigators “went against all of his instincts, and he burned bridges” with those he considered family, Monaghan said.
“The fact that he was able to make this choice at 17 is remarkable to me,” he said.
Olivo said being incarcerated for the last 10 months has shown him how being away from his family has affected them.
“I try to think, what if it was me that passed?” Olivo said. “I could only imagine how Robert’s family feels and has been affected.”
Olivo said he hoped that Gomez’s mother, Marcie Sheffield, could forgive him one day.
Sheffield, reading a victim impact statement Tuesday, said she did forgive Olivo for his role in her son’s death.
Through tears, she said she will never be able to see her son graduate, or meet his wife and children who would have called her grandma. She will never get to know what career path Gomez would have chosen.
“But you will have those opportunities,” she told Olivo. “I want you to make your life count. I want you to make his death matter.”
A teenage girl who was the witness Olivo intimated provided testimony Tuesday. She said she has been living in fear since the investigation started, so much so that she moved away.
“It didn’t just end Robert’s life,” she said. “It changed lots of people’s (lives) and changed a lot of perspectives.”
In addition to the 10-year sentence, 3rd District Judge Bradley Ford ordered Olivo not to contact the girl or three others for 10 years. The role of the other three in the case is unclear.
“In 22 years sitting as a judge, it’s always been very sad for me as I witness many people with a lot of potential end up losing their lives or being engaged in activities that cause them to be incarcerated,” Ford said.
Ford saw potential in Olivo. He guessed Gomez would have had potential, too. He noted that it’s sad to have witnessed so many acts of senseless violence for issues that, in his opinion, are not significant.
“Somehow, society needs to find a way to make changes so that we aren’t losing young lives,” he said.
Olivo is one of four teenagers charged in this case. Juan Menchaca is set to be sentenced in October for first-degree murder and robbery. Juan’s brother, Jose Menchaca, was sentenced in August to up to four years in the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. Another teenager, who was initially charged as an adult, had his case moved back to juvenile court, where the proceedings are not public.