It took a jury less than two hours to convict Andrade for bludgeoning Zapata to death with a fire extinguisher. The jury also found the Thornton man guilty of motor vehicle theft for stealing Zapata’s sister’s PT Cruiser and identity theft for using a credit card to buy gas several times before his arrest nearly two weeks after the murder. It’s the first time Colorado’s hate-crime statute has been successfully prosecuted against the killer of a transgender victim.
Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate election next year, filed habitual criminal charges against Andrade in December, saying the sentencing-enhancement would ensure Andrade spent plenty of time behind bars even if a jury didn’t convict him on the first-degree murder charge.
Kopcow determined prosecutors proved Andrade was a habitual criminal, qualifying him for Colorado’s version of a three-strikes law, after reviewing prior felony convictions stretching back more than a decade, including theft and lying to a pawnbroker. The habitual-offender law mandates judges impose four times the maximum sentence on underlying charges — in this case, a total of 12 years for the hate-crime charge, and 24 years each for the identity theft and motor vehicle theft charges.
Rejecting arguments made by Andrade’s public defender, Annette Kundelius, the judge ordered Andrade to serve the additional sentences consecutively rather than concurrently with his life sentence.
Westword’s Melanie Asmar, who live-blogged the Zapata trial, reported testimony at Andrade’s sentencing hearing:
“Mr. Andrade’s life cannot be summed up just by this one act,” [Kundelius] said. “There is so much more to Mr. Andrade. I think it’s unfair that the media doesn’t get an opportunity to know Mr. Andrade, and there’s been a portrayal of Mr. Andrade as an evil, horrible monster. And he’s not.
“There are a number of things I respect and admire about Mr. Andrade,” she added. “While he’s done something I don’t think anybody agrees with, I think Mr. Andrade would agree this was not the best day of his life. It was not the best decision he ever made. But it happened.”
Zapata’s mother, Maria, drew a starkly different picture when she addressed the court:
“This person — and I say it nicely, your honor — took my baby away from me,” she said, her voice shaking. “I will never, ever be able to touch her, to talk to her. The only way I see her is in pictures or at the grave site.”
She then spun around to face Andrade. “And I ask: Why? Why? Why?” she said, raising her voice so much that Kundelius asked the judge to stop her. “It’s just so much anger. They tell me to forgive is the first step. I can’t. I can’t right now.”
Read our continuing coverage of the Zapata murder trial.