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Theft, vehicle attack nets 2-year sentence

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By Wren Propp

A Hernandez woman who fled a Los Alamos clothing store in March with nearly $1,000 worth of stolen merchandise and then used her vehicle to strike a man trying to record her license plate, was sentenced to two years in prison following a plea deal including other crimes she committed in Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Los Alamos counties.

District Judge T. Glenn Ellington handed down the sentence to Ashley Garcia, 23, in a Los Alamos courtroom on Wednesday, saying that she had long ago crossed a line from self-destructive drug addict to dangerous person.

“You act out of impulse and you disregard the impact your actions have on others…You strike back when you get cornered,” Ellington said.

Garcia entered a plea deal in August.

Among the charges, she pleaded guilty one count of aggravated battery, a third-degree felony, stemming from the shoplifting incident and attack with a vehicle in March.

David Demello was struck and severely injured.

She also pleaded guilty to two shoplifting charges, both fourth-degree felonies. One stems from an incident in Santa Fe and another one in Los Alamos. She also pleaded guilty to a charge of forgery, a fourth-degree felony, which occurred in December 2015 in Rio Arriba County.

As part of the deal, she also had admitted that she had been convicted of residential burglary in Rio Arriba County in May of 2012. Acknowledging the prior conviction meant that she was sentenced as a habitual offender.

Demello, identified in court on Wednesday as the husband of the then-manager of Beall’s, attempted to get the license plate on Garcia’s vehicle as she sped out of the parking lot, Assistant District Attorney Kent Wahlquist told Ellington.

Demello’s body – his elbow – struck the vehicle’s front windshield after she attempted to run him over, Wahlquist said.

The damage to the windshield was so severe drivers coming up the hill to Los Alamos, as Garcia sped down, called in reports of it, he said.

Demello’s recovery from his injuries continue, and his family has suffered hardship, Wahlquist said.

“He is very scared,” and his injuries from the attack prevent him from fully caring for an ill family member, Wahlquist said.

He noted that Garcia had been in court in Los Alamos that March morning in regards to other criminal charges, before going to Beall’s, and rushed away saying she needed to be in Española.

During the shoplifting incident in Santa Fe – Garcia left a beauty supply store with hundreds of dollars’ worth of products – she used a syringe as a threat as an off-duty Santa Fe police officer tried to stop her. She had pleaded guilty to the attack prior to the global plea agreement, according to court records.

“She swung it at him and said ‘I’ll (expletive) stick you,’” Wahlquist said.

Garcia’s criminal past is connected to drug addiction, and she has become a danger to the community, Wahlquist said.

She can get treatment for drug addiction in prison, he said.

“She’s earned two years in the Department of Corrections,” he said, prior to Ellington’s sentencing.

Because of the charges in three counties, two attorneys – with one absent – represented Garcia in court on Wednesday.

Defense attorney Peter Bloodworth asked Ellington for leniency, noting that Garcia’s problem stems from drug abuse, he said, and in his experience a prison sentence “has never created better citizens.”

Garcia, a mother of a small child who has given the child to her mother to raise, faced problems and challenges when she was very young, Bloodworth said.

“I don’t think she’s had a chance at life,” he told the judge.

Both he and defense counsel Kristen Dickey asked Ellington to allow Garcia to enter a long-term drug treatment program instead of prison.

Garcia also pleaded with the judge, saying she took responsibility for what she had done. She also apologized to the victims. She asked him to send her to treatment, rather than prison.

“That would help me become a better person,” she said.

After hearing from the attorneys and Garcia, Ellington said that Garcia’s violent acts are beyond the “petty crimes” committed by the average drug addict.

Ellington sentenced Garcia to six years in prison, suspended all but two years, and included time served. Once released from prison, Garcia will spend four years on supervised probation, including six months in a drug treatment facility.

After the hearing, Garcia’s attorneys said that she has served several months to a year in jail.