Cordova hearing postponed until Nov. 6

Teen convicated in school shooting seeking guardianship here

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— The guardianship hearing for a 16-year-old boy who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder has been continued until Nov. 6.

Routt County residents Godelebo and Minerva Loya are seeking guardianship of their nephew, Victor Manuel Cordova Jr., who is in a New Mexico correctional facility.

District Court Judge Paul McLimans postponed his decision on the case for a second time Friday.

At the Friday hearing, it was determined that Cordova could be transported to the Routt County Courthouse for the Nov. 6 hearing to satisfy a requirement that he be present during the hearing.

According to court files, at the Friday hearing Routt County Attorney John Merrill "expressed concern about the lack of any aftercare" for Cordova if he is released from custody.

In 2000, Cordova pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of schoolmate Aracely Tena. Cordova fatally shot Tena Nov. 19, 1999, in Deming Middle School in New Mexico.

He also pleaded guilty to 10 other counts of aggravated assault with a .22-caliber pistol.

New Mexico Public Defender Alan Wagman, who has represented Cordova for the past four years, said the New Mexico courts deemed guardianship with the Loyas would be the best situation possible for the boy.

"We can't bring Aracely back to life, but it doesn't help to destroy Victor's in the process," Wagman said Monday.

On Oct. 9, the Juvenile Court in New Mexico ordered that Cordova be released from state custody no later than Dec. 19 if guardianship is granted.

At that time, New Mexico Sixth District Judge V. Lee Vesely said the risk of placing Cordova at the Albuquerque Boys Reintegration Center posed a greater risk than releasing him to the Loyas.

Wagman said that the emotional impact of the 1999 shooting is still felt in Deming and it would be easier for Cordova to move away. He also said having the boy returned to his father, who lives in Mexico, is not favorable.

Cordova's mother, who was Godelebo Loya's sister, died less than a year before the shooting.

Social workers have evaluated the Loyas home and the facilities available in Routt County and see the home as stable. Experts have testified that Cordova is less a risk to be violent than most children his age.

Cordova graduated from the correctional facilities' high school this month, Wagman said, and passed the GED exam. If he lived with the Loyas, Wagman said, Cordova most likely would work on their ranch and could attend classes at Colorado Mountain College. Cordova has hopes of attending the University of Colorado to earn a degree in mechanical engineering.

Cordova also would undergo therapy to help with guilt and grief issues.

"He knows what he did and feels terrible and has apologized," Wagman said.

Cordova has spent four years in a correctional facility, with one year passing before a plea agreement was reached.

Wagman said the shooting was accidental and Cordova pleaded guilty to second-degree murder to avoid the possibility of being sentenced to a correctional facility until he was 21, which would have been the maximum sentence if the case went to trial.

In the plea agreement, Cordova was sentenced to two years in a correctional facility with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department. His stayed in state custody for another year after it was decided that he should not live with his father.

The county, which could have future contact with Cordova through the Health and Human Services Department, is objecting to the process of the guardianship hearing. Court records show the county believes that by filing for guardianship, the Loyas are trying to circumvent interstate agreements between New Mexico and Colorado regarding the placement of juveniles.

Wagman said the county's objections have no basis because the agreement is only pertinent to juveniles still in the state's custody, which Cordova would not be if he comes to live with his aunt and uncle.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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