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Family of fallen Las Animas County Sheriff’s deputy given closure, following accident report

Posted at 7:11 PM, Jan 18, 2019

Even after saying good-bye, it’s been hard for Karli Michael to accept her big brother is really gone.

“I miss my brother more than I ever could have fathomed,” Michael told News5, starting to get choked up.

“And I’m pretty sure my phone is going to ring and it’s going to be him–but I know that it’s not. But I’m still hopeful. And I don’t think that pain will ever go away,” she added in a phone interview on Friday.

Sergeant Matthew Moreno–of the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office–was killed in a triple fatal wreck on his way to a call, back in December.

“I cried a lot. I’ve had to rely on the support of my family,” said Michael.

She says the grieving process was made even harder by strangers on social media, who blamed Moreno for the wreck.

“The comments–the stuff from websites and social media–it’s been awful. Being a ‘baby killer’ and ‘vehicular homicide.’ It hurts,” said Michael.

Since mid-December, Michael says she and her family had to fight the urge to respond to those comments.

“We didn’t know the investigation results. So we stayed silent and just watched the awful people come out of the woodwork and just bash his name and what he represented. And it just hurt us. It crushed all of us. It made us cry daily.”

More than a month after the deadly wreck, the accident report was released–and Moreno’s family can breathe a little easier, knowing he wasn’t responsible for it.

For more details on that crash, and how it was caused, click here.

“Nobody gets to say bad things about him, and nobody gets to say bad things about the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office–concerning this accident–either,” said Michael.

“It doesn’t change the fact that three lives were lost. It only clears my brother’s name, and that’s it. There’s nothing but devastation to be had from this–from Taelor’s family to ours,” she added.

Michael forgave 23-year-old Taelor Valdez, the woman who caused the fatal crash, in a public facebook post Thursday.

The post said, in part, “…you took my brothers life and your own childs. But we forgive you. May you please rest easy. Love to all of you.”

Michael says it wouldn’t have been as easy to quickly forgive Valdez, had she not had the last month to grieve the loss.

“Us turning around and verbally abusing people–armed with the knowledge–is wrong, in every fashion. It is wrong.”

She hopes others will follow suit, by choosing to respect the families affected by this tragedy instead of criticizing the people they’re mourning.

“If Matt had survived all of this, he would want the hateful comments to stop and he would want everybody to support his brothers at the Sheriff’s Office.”

Michael says her brother would want the comments about Valdez to stop as well.

“Never for a second would he have allowed it. He would be immediate to defend her and not let her name go down in such shame that people are placing on her. He wouldn’t stand for it.”