Donald Montanez and the Death of Glen Rich
Trial & Verdict
On February 21, 2012, a six-person jury began hearing testimony in the case against Donald Montanez. The prosecution contended that towing the Sebring was an illegal act because the car was parked on a public right-of-way -- not in front of a driveway, where parking was not permitted. With those facts, the State maintained that it was Glen Rich who acted properly in taking back his illegally-towed car in the face of a gun-wielding tow truck operator.
Montanez' attorneys painted an entirely different picture of what happened that night -- if the State said Rich defended himself after an illegal tow, the defense maintained that Rich acted as if taking his car back was more important than the welfare of the people standing in front of him. Instead of waiting for police and then taking Montanez to civil court, Rich hit Cory Crites with his car and then revved toward Donald Montanez and Lorraine Marie Whitehead. Defense attorneys said their client was in "imminent danger", thus prompting Montanez to fire in self-defense.
On March 1, 2012, after 10 hours of deliberation, the 4-woman, 2-man jury reached its decision. They found Donald Montanez had not committed 2nd Degree murder (instead convicting him of manslaughter on the top count), but was guilty of 3rd Degree felony murder (a killing done in the midst of grand theft auto). They also convicted Montanez on lesser counts of Aggravated Assault, Improper Exhibition of a Weapon, and Shooting into a Vehicle.
Montanez showed no emotion as the verdict was read or as the handcuffs were put on, but his friend and employee Lorraine Marie Whitehead wept uncontrollably. Rich's father Bennie Rich said he was gratified to hear the click of the handcuffs shackling Donald: "I've been waiting six years for this," he told reporters. Rich's mother Eva Stephens said she had forgiven Montanez, and hoped he would become a better person and "love people like I do."
Judge William Fuente has broad discretion in sentencing on the various counts, but Montanez faces a mandatory sentence of more than 30 years -- and could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Sentencing has been set for May 4, 2012.
Although defense attorneys deemed the verdict "mind-boggling," they remained upbeat about their client's prospects. They maintain that Judge Fuente will have to dismiss the manslaughter conviction in order to sentence Montanez on the 3rd Degree murder charge (since he can't be sentenced on two murder counts for one murder) -- and that the 3rd Degree murder count is the most susceptible to overturning on appeal. Of course, the appeals process will take months or years to unfold, so it's just a matter of how long -- not whether or not -- Donald Montanez spends time in prison.