NATIONAL NEWS

Two more people sentenced for carjacking and kidnapping an FBI employee in South Dakota

Apr 29, 2024, 8:00 AM

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The last two members of a trio who carjacked and kidnapped an FBI employee in South Dakota in 2022 have been sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.

Deyvin Morales, 29, was sentenced Friday to 47 years in prison, the Rapid City Journal reported. At the same hearing, 29-year-old Karla Lopez-Gutierrez, was sentenced to more than 26 years in prison.

The third person involved in the crime, Juan Alvarez-Sorto, 25, was sentenced earlier this month to 37 years.

Alvarez-Sorto and Morales had pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, carjacking and other crimes, but were convicted in January. Alvarez-Sorto also was convicted of unlawfully entering the U.S. after being deported to his home country, El Salvador. Lopez-Gutierrez pleaded guilty in August to aiding and abetting kidnapping and a weapons charge.

At the hearing on Friday, the victim said the assailants “showed me no mercy” before he was able to escape.

“You had everything of mine already,” he said. “Why did you have to kidnap me?”

Prosecutors said the three attackers left Greeley, Colorado, on May 5, 2022, and were on a “drug trafficking trip” to South Dakota in a Ford Expedition. Nearly out of gas at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Morales told the others they needed to “take over” a new vehicle, Lopez-Gutierrez testified in January.

A short time later, the FBI employee speeding in his Dodge Durango saw the Expedition and pulled over, believing it was a tribal officer. Prosecutors said the suspects took the Durango at gunpoint and forced the victim to go along. The victim said Alvarez-Sorto threatened his family and held a gun to the back of his head as he was facedown in the Badlands.

When the group stopped to buy gas and zip ties in the town of Hermosa, South Dakota, the victim decided to try and escape. He said at the hearing that he crawled over Morales and “clawed” his way out of the car. Morales grabbed his jacket and the victim fell, but managed to get to his feet. He “ran like a chicken with my head cut off” to get away, he said.

Morales and Alvarez-Sorto were arrested in Greeley a week later. Lopez-Gutierrez was arrested in August 2022 in Loveland, Colorado.

Morales’ attorney, Jonathan McCoy asked the judge for a sentence of 20-25 years. He said Morales was granted asylum in 2017 because a gang in Guatemala wanted to kill him.

“Deportation sentences him to death in Guatemala,” McCoy said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Jehangiri said Morales squandered “the good will of our country” in committing the crime.

“It’s absolutely shameful,” Jehangiri said. “Asylum was to escape gang activity, and now you’re active in gang activity.”

The attorney for Lopez-Gutierrez, also sought a lenient sentence, citing in part the fact that she is a mother of three and has taken responsibility for her role.

“I am very sorry,” Lopez-Gutierrez said through tears at the hearing. “I apologize to him and his family for the pain I’ve caused.”

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Two more people sentenced for carjacking and kidnapping an FBI employee in South Dakota