Man sentenced to 40 years for 2005 slaying

Addicted to cocaine, Joel Nunez Valles wanted money for drugs

August 02, 2010|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

An illegal immigrant who fled to Mexico after killing his boss for drug money in 2005 was sentenced to 40 years in prison Monday in Howard County Circuit Court.

It took Howard police and prosecutors more than four years to find and extradite Joel Nunez Valles from a Mexican jail, where he was confined for an unknown crime. Prosecutor Susan Weinstein said Valles' sentence, life in prison with all but 40 years suspended, was the result of a plea agreement because the main witnesses were his own family members, who were "reluctant" to testify.

According to police, Valles, a cocaine addict, killed Juan Miguel Gonzales, 51, of West Friendship, the owner of a landscaping company where Valles worked. Valles stabbed Gonzales 19 times in the face, neck and chest with a screwdriver after the owner refused to give him cash for drugs. Valles took a bus back to Mexico the next day, and it took two days before anyone discovered Gonzales' body.

"What's important to understand is that Mr. Valles didn't just take one life. Mr. Valles took the lives of my family," said Gonzales' son, Alexander Garza, 23, in a victim's impact statement. "You took any chances of my siblings having an argument with my father," he said, as well as Gonzales' ability to see his children graduate from Centennial High School, or later from college.

But Garza also had kinder words. "I forgive you," he said to Valles. "I just look at your eyes, and they are so sad. Seek redemption from God."

Judge Lenore R. Gelfman said she believed Valles' and public defender Louis P. Willemin's assertions that Valles is sincerely remorseful for the killing. In his own statement, made through an interpreter, Valles asked forgiveness from the Gonzales family, "because I also have a family and it feels pretty bad. I have also harmed my own family."

Willemin said Valles came to the United States to work with his three brothers and send money home, but "succumbed" to drugs. He has an 8-year-old son in Mexico, the lawyer said.

The victim's ex-wife, Dora Elsi Garza, said after the hearing that she was happy with the outcome. "I feel well because he is going to go to jail for a lot of years," she said through an interpreter. "If he's free, he'll be doing the same thing."

Valles faces deportation once he leaves prison. Alex Garza said his sister, Eva, and brother, Arthur, who is a Marine, chose not to attend the hearing.

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