David Earl Ray Gallegos didn’t speak to the man he stabbed to death at a Lakewood park.
“We didn’t even say two words to each other,” the 31-year-old told a judge Friday before he was sentenced for the crime.
Loved ones of Daniel “Danny” Guerin believe he had trouble with his phone the night of Aug. 27, 2015, and that he stopped his truck at Seeley Lake Park to try to fix it.
That’s when Gallegos, who suffers from mental illness and was allegedly high on drugs, ran from the bushes with a large knife and attacked him.
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The case went unsolved for about two years until Gallegos confessed to a friend, who told police.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last month, as part of negotiations with prosecutors, and Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend on Friday gave him a mid-range sentence of 15 years, five months in prison.
Gallegos apologized to Guerin’s family, took responsibility for the attack, and said: “That wasn’t me in the bushes.”
Guerin’s mother, Vicky Jordan, described in detail for the court how her son suffocated in his own blood after the attack, which makes her especially sick, she said, because the 36-year-old suffered from severe asthma throughout his life.
“I spent countless, countless hours trying to help him breath,” she said.
Jordan also told the court Guerin had suffered from mental illness, too — bipolar disorder — but that unlike Gallegos he’d never sought to harm anyone.
Deputy prosecutor Jesse Williams said Guerin was a victim of circumstance.
“He was a good person,” Williams told the court. “... He chose the wrong park.”
Guerin was an exceptionally bright man who did carpentry work, loved dirt bikes and taught himself to play the guitar, loved ones said.
Robert Guerin, his father, told the court his son once fixed a broken television as a kid and that Johns Hopkins University had encouraged him in middle school to apply there one day.
“I just hate this,” he told Arend of the family’s loss.
Shannon Guerin described learning about her brother’s death and having to tell their mother what happened.
“She let out the most horrific scream that I have ever heard,” she said.
Shannon Guerin also described how she was haunted by seeing her brother’s blood in the truck after the family got it back from investigators.
“This wasn’t supposed to be us,” she told Arend. “It’s not supposed to be anybody.”
Defense attorney Mark Quigley told the court that Gallegos has been diagnosed with schizophrenia throughout his adult life and has often been homeless.
“Really, Mr. Gallegos goes through life kind of alone,” Quigley said.
Gallegos was suffering from delusions and paranoia the night of the stabbing and thought Guerin had a gun and was going to hurt him, the lawyer said.
He also said Gallegos appeared to be using alcohol, methamphetamine and heroin around that time and noted that Gallegos grew up in southern California, with parents who were affiliated with gangs and drugs.
Both Quigley and Judge Arend said it seemed quite possible that Gallegos would be civilly committed to a psychiatric facility after he served his prison time.
Guerin’s family asked that Arend give Gallegos more than the 13 years, nine months in prison that both the prosecution and defense recommended, and Arend did.
Guerin’s other sister, Jennifer Guerin, told the court that would help the family forgive, which she believes her brother would want.
“I can work toward that,” she said. “I can get there. But it will be easier to get through if it feels like for once Danny was given the justice that he deserved.”
Jordan also spoke of forgiving her son’s killer.
She told Gallegos that she could tell by looking at his face that he’s not a mean person.
“I hate what you did, but I can’t hate you,” she said. “And I hope you turn things around from here.”
Gallegos raised his head to look at her, and he nodded.