Estevan Montoya was ruling to life in prison for the murder of basketball standout Fedonta “JB” White at a house party in the summer of 2020.
Judge Glenn Ellington handed down the sentence after an emotional hearing in New Mexico’s 1st Judicial District Court on Wednesday.
Family and supporters of both Montoya and White packed the Santa Fe courtroom for the hearing.
Eight members of White’s family read letters to the court or had prosecuting attorneys read their letters. There were sobs throughout the courtroom as White’s family described the toll the 18-year-old’s death has had on the tight-knit family.
Bianca Vega, White’s mother, talked about the trip to the hospital the night of the shooting. They were originally worried about White’s future basketball career. She said she collapsed on the floor of the hospital hallway when she learned of her son’s death.
“I am broken and confused,” she wrote in a letter that was read in court.
A jury found Montoya guilty May 17 in the 2020 shooting death in Chupadero, a rural community about 15 miles north of Santa Fe. Montoya’s conviction for first-degree murder, willful and deliberate, requires him to spend 30 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
Jurors also convicted Montoya on one count each of tampering with evidence, unlawful possession of a handgun by a person under 19, and negligent use of a deadly weapon near a dwelling.
White was shot during a party that prosecutors said began as a “chill” event among friends. Word of the party spread on social media, attracting a large number of young people including Montoya and several friends.
Prosecutors argued that Montoya “lured” White into a fistfight in the moments before he pulled a .380-caliber pistol and fired a single shot into White’s chest.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Blake Nichols also told jurors in closing arguments that White “thought he was signing up for a fistfight” and didn’t know Montoya was armed.
Nichols also argued that Montoya was at least partly motivated by jealousy for the “tall, athletic, handsome” White.
White was “everything the defendant is not,” Nichols told jurors.
White was a nationally ranked basketball player at Santa Fe High School who had turned down offers from other Division 1 programs to play for the University of New Mexico Lobos.
The 6-foot 5-inch wing, White was only days from moving to Albuquerque to practice with the Lobos when he was killed on Aug. 1, 2020.
Montoya’s attorneys had argued that Montoya shot at the larger White in self defense.
Montoya’s attorney, Daniel Marlowe, told jurors that White had been the aggressor, who chased and threw punches at Montoya in the moments before the shooting. Montoya pulled a pistol and fired over his shoulder as White pursued him, Marlowe said.
Montoya ran from the scene and was arrested the following morning. The pistol was not recovered.