COLORADO SPRINGS — One of the accused gunmen involved in the murders of two Colorado Springs teens in 2017 has taken a plea deal, and avoided going to trial for the second time.
Marco Garcia-Bravo made a deal with the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office, pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit second-degree murder in the deaths of 16-year-old Natalie Cano-Partida and 15-year-old Derek Greer. The two teens were described as best friends.
The sentence is two 15-year terms to be served back to back with mandatory parole at the end of the terms. Garcia-Bravo could serve less than the 30 years due to time served, good behavior in prison, eligibility for community correction programs, and other factors. He has already served 1,473 days of presentence confinement credit, which is just over four years.
In Monday morning's hearing, Garcia-Bravo chose not to speak before Judge David Shakes issued the sentence. He was present in an orange jumpsuit and black face mask, which was worn below his nose for most of the sentencing. He looked straight ahead or down during the majority of the hearing, showing little emotion.
More than five family members of the victims spoke before sentencing, including Cano-Partida's father who said, "This is so sad... horrifying. Two young people lost their lives over hearsay and rumors."
"I'm not the same person that I was before. I know I wake up every morning, and I realize, I still have that ache inside of me, that will never go away. That I lost my daughter."
Her mother, Tamara Partida, spoke next. "This has been a long four years. Four years ago we came here and really didn't know what to expect. We were hoping for the best, we wanted justice for Natalie, our daughter, and for Derek Greer. We were hoping that we would get fair justice for them. No amount of time is ever going to bring back Natalie or Derek. They're gone forever... They had no idea what was going to happen to them. I think about the terrifying moments they went through before their lives were taken."
Natalie's mother held a framed photograph of her daughter throughout her statement to the court. She told the judge "there's no amount of time that would have been enough, but 30 years is definitely not enough." Cano-Partida's mother said she knows in her heart that her daughter's last thoughts were about her family. She also mourned the mother-daughter relationship the two will never have as adults, saying she was looking forward to watching her daughter get married or have children.
"I don't think it's justice, but it's the only justice that we're going to get."
Cano-Partida's mother described her only daughter as smart, artistic, and funny. She said her daughter had a kind heart, and was thrilled to be an aunt. "These were two children, and they were found on the side of the road, covered in frost. That's what I was told, they were covered in frost. Two innocent children, who had their whole life ahead of them, and it was only worth 30 years," said Partida.
Then, a woman who said she was essentially Cano-Partida's older sister told the court, "I told my aunt today I don't want to speak. I've thought about this since Monday, what I was going to say. I didn't want to mention Natalie or Derek's family today, simply because the people listening are unworthy of them. You took away my best friend, but most of all my little sister."
The woman who was like a sister to Cano-Partida continued to speak, fighting off tears. "I'll never find out who my sister was going to be because of you... Natalie, you were my favorite hello and you will forever be my hardest goodbye. I hope you know, Mr. Bravo, what you took from my family and Heather's family. May you rot in hell."
Derek Greer's mother, Heather Ferguson, was the first family member asked to speak virtually. However, Ferguson originally said she wanted to speak after the sentencing. When the judge informed her she would need to speak beforehand, she declined. Then, after hearing Cano-Partida's family members address the court, Ferguson shared her thoughts. She said, "He [Garcia-Bravo] took a great kid. The things I've had to endure as a result of this is just unbelievable, to have to see your kid with bullet wounds in their face, skull fractured... I mean, my life has completely changed. I'll never have a fully happy day again. My whole entire family was lost as a result of this murder, within eight months' time my whole family passed away. And I truly believe that's from a broken heart."
Ferguson told the judge this sentence is unfair. "It went from a death penalty case to this. I don't understand it. Like they all said, he will get out and the true judgment is before God."
News5 also talked to Greer's dad, Jeff Ferguson, who described his son as talkative, full of energy, and a little bit of a goofball. "Derek was an awesome kid. He was the kind of kid that if you were in a room with him, and there were 50 other people, he would stand out," said Jeff Ferguson.
Greer's father also said they still celebrate his birthday every year, and that holidays are particularly hard. "He's always there with us," said Jeff Ferguson.
As for the plea deal, the prosecution had the following for the court: "This case has mattered to our community. Derek and Natalie mattered. The community as a whole feels the loss." Prosecutors agreed this was not enough time to fit the crime, but said it is a resolution that will protect the community.
A spokesperson for the District Attorney's Office addressed the press outside the courthouse. Howard Black said justice has been served in this case, but "we would all like to see a higher sentence."
Black called it a difficult case at best, with complicated witnesses. He acknowledged conversations between witnesses at the Criminal Justice Center. Black said prosecutors knew they had to "take an individual off the streets for public safety."
The 4th Judicial District also said there are still three defendants involved in this case who have yet to be sentenced. They are Gustavo Marquez, Joseph Rodriguez, and Alexandra Romero.
CLICK HERE to read through the full plea. Judge Shakes said this plea agreement was reached "quickly" on the afternoon of April 1.
News5's Colette Bordelon was in the courtroom for Monday's hearing. Tweets by ColetteBordelon
Garcia-Bravo was set for a new trial after his first ended in a hung jury. The jury could not reach a verdict for two charges of murder in the first degree with intent and deliberation, two charges of murder in the first-degree felony murder - kidnapping, and child abuse resulting in death.
According to court documents, Cano-Partida and Greer were driven from a house party in Colorado Springs to Old Pueblo Road and shot execution-style in March of 2017. Their bodies were found alongside the side of the road. Investigators believe Cano-Partida was killed due to suspected involvement with another gang. Her mother stressed that Cano-Partida was not involved with any gangs.
Law enforcement has arrested ten people on a wide variety of charges as part of the investigation into the killings.
A confession by another suspect, Gustavo Marquez, stated that he drove the teens out to Old Pueblo Road where Diego Chacon fired two shots at Cano-Partida. He then handed the gun to Marco Garcia-Bravo, who shot Greer several times. Court documents detail the suspects saying Greer was only shot because he was with Cano-Partida at the time.
Another man, Diego Chacon, already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 65 years in prison. Derek Greer's father, Jeff Ferguson said "with Diego Chacon's sentencing, we all agreed on his sentence. That was about the lowest we would go. And this one is 35 years lower," said Ferguson.
“They were precious,” said Cano-Partida’s mother, Tamara Partida, in January 2019. “He was such a good friend,” explained Greer's mother, Heather Ferguson. “He was so loyal and loved Natalie and was there for her until the end.”