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Man gets 20 years in teen's shooting death

January 28, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Chad Joseph Cordell, a 23-year-old Martinsburg man convicted of gunning down a teenager over a $2 card game, got the maximum penalty of 20 years in prison Friday.

Speaking to a packed courtroom, Berkeley County Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes gave Cordell a 15-year prison term for voluntary manslaughter and tacked on a five-year sentence for the charge of using a firearm in the crime.

Cordell declined to address Wilkes before hearing his sentence.

"I'm not surprised we're here today doing what we're doing," Wilkes said. "The tragedy of it is, I don't believe this will be the last time this individual will be in the court system. There has been no expression of remorse."

Family members of the victim, Jose "Joey" DeLoa, said they were pleased with the sentence.

Defense attorney Craig Manford said he would appeal the verdict, probably on grounds that the evidence was insufficient to support it. But he acknowledged in an interview it will be a tough argument to make.

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The sentence "wasn't a surprise at all, not under the circumstances," he said.

A jury found Cordell guilty of voluntary manslaughter Dec. 3, passing up the more serious charge of first-degree murder.

Prosecution witnesses testified at his trial last month that Cordell shot DeLoa five times with a .22-caliber handgun in December 1998 after the 16-year-old youth grabbed a $2 pot during a card game.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely, who expressed disappointment over Cordell's conviction on the lesser charge, argued vigorously for the maximum penalty.

"This is not a human being that belongs on the street," she said. "The unfortunate part, your honor, is I believe he'll do it again."

Noting Cordell's past charges of marijuana possession, underage drinking, trespassing and petty theft, Manford argued that his client should receive leniency. Under the law, Wilkes could have sentenced Cordell to from three to 15 years on the manslaughter charge.

"We've got at best several misdemeanor violations," Manford said. "I would ask the court to consider something at the midway point, or even closer to the three years."

DeLoa had moved from Omaha, Neb., to live with his father in Martinsburg just two days before he was shot.

His father and aunt, their voices crackling with emotion, talked about the devastation his death has caused.

His aunt, Andrea Garcia, who sobbed through her statement, said Cordell's family will still be able to visit him in prison.

"All I got is a picture, and that's the only thing I'll ever be able to see of (DeLoa)," she said. "I don't sleep at night. I don't do nothing anymore. I've lost my brother, because he does not want to talk to anybody."

Garcia said she was especially tormented by the seemingly trivial motive.

"Over $2? I would have given him millions if he would have spared his life," she said.

DeLoa's family members were particularly upset over defense testimony that accused DeLoa of being a member of a gang in Omaha and suggestions that a member of a rival gang may have been the real shooter.

"My son was not a gangbanger, but that's not what the people decided to believe. Maybe that's because he was a young Mexican," said his father, Jose Quinones.

Quinones urged Wilkes to "put (Cordell) away for as long as legally possible." Whatever the sentence, Cordell will still see the light of day, Quinones said.

"Hopefully, my son's got the light of God," he said.

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