The verdict in the Angie Zapata murder trial came a lot quicker than anyone anticipated.
The jury took only two hours to rule that the man who stood accused of killing Angie Zapata was guilty of murder in the first degree – which caries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no option for parole. Sentencing for the other three charges will occur in May. These include a hate crime charge, car theft and identity theft.
I was in a small victim assistance/witness room visiting with Angie’s brother Gonzalo, discussing the public statement he planned to make after the verdict was issued, when we heard that the jury had returned.
The courtroom was packed as the jury filed in. I sat directly behind the defendant, Allen Andrade, and could see his face in the TruTV “In Session” television screen in the media section of the courtroom. Andrade had no reaction as the verdict was read.
After the verdict, the judge sentenced Andrade on the first degree murder count. The sentence was mandated by state law – a conviction of first degree murder required the judge to impose a life prison sentence, without the possibility of parole.
After sentencing, Gonzalo, surrounded by some of his family members, made a statement to the media. The statement was powerful, moving and showed very deeply how much this older brother loved his little sister. You can see video of Gonzalo’s statement at Pam’s House Blend.
Shortly after the family left the building, Gonzalo called me. “Adam, we’re going to tell Angie the news, come with us.”
The family also invited TruTV to join them at the cemetary. The family has been very impressed with the continuous coverage of TruTV’s “In Session” and particularly the respect shown to Angie by reporter Beth Karas.
In a caravan, I followed Angie’s family and friends to the cemetery where Angie’s buried. I held back, at the gate, for a long time. Beth and the TruTV team stood back with me until the family motioned us to join them at the headstone.
While there, Angie’s mom Maria told story after story about Angie. Friends and siblings spoke up and shared memories of Angie. There were a lot of tears – and laughs – as they remembered her.
Monica then took my hand, and we stood in a circle. Maria led us in the Lord’s Prayer, and then offered a very personal prayer of her own. It was an honor to be included in this very personal moment.
Angie was, by all accounts, a beautiful, vibrant, loving person. I wish I could have known her. Standing hand-in-hand with Angie’s family and friends at Angie’s grave at dusk last night served as a reminder for me of why it was so important to be present in Greeley for this trial. It was an honor to grow closer with the Zapata family, and to see that even in an area, which many view as not being supportive of LGBT people, hate violence will not be tolerated. The jury sent that message loud and clear yesterday afternoon. It was remarkable to see.
Most of all, I’m in awe of the example the Zapata family sets. As Gonzo said, on behalf of the family, “Remember her (Angie), like we do, as a beautiful, wonderful, precious teenager. She would want us to remember the happy times in her life. Together, and in Angie’s memory, let’s make the world a better place.”