BILLINGS – A Hardin man convicted at trial of fatally shooting a man in downtown Billing was sentenced Thursday to more than a century in prison.
The sentencing hearing for Jonathon Martinez, 29, was held at the Yellowstone County Courthouse before Judge Mary Jane Knisely.
Knisely sentenced Martinez to 130 years to the Montana State Prison.
Martinez was convicted in December 2015 of deliberate homicide with a weapons enhancement for the 2014 death of David Vallie.
A separate burglary conviction resulted in 20 years of the sentence ordered Thursday.
The first person to take the stand at the sentencing hearing was the victim’s sister.
“Regardless of my brother’s life style, he was a good person. That’s how I knew him. Always handing out things to people on the street. He cared a lot about his kids,” said Kathy Vallie.
Vallie said her brother would always lend an ear to anyone who had trouble in life.
“Jonathon, I know you had a rough upbringing, but if you’d known my brother you two could’ve been friends,” said Vallie. “Because you two had the same upbringing.”
The mother of one of Vallie’s children, Tania Murnion, testified about the difficulty of explaining the death to her 7-year-old child.
“David was a good man,” said Murnion. “We weren’t together when this happened but he was funny, kind-hearted and a good father.”
Murnion said the last memory her son will have of his father is seeing him in the casket.
Laura McKee, a probation and parole official, testified about Martinez’ previous time in prison of 8 years. McKee said Martinez was accepted into the Boot Camp Program in September 2009, about two years after he arrived at the prison.
McKee said he was terminated from the program because he failed to admit his illegal activities, which is a requirement.
Martinez was placed back in the prison, paroled in 2012 and placed in a pre-release program in Missoula.
Martinez was paroled to Billings in July 2013, McKee said.
Just one month after he arrived in Billings, Martinez began breaching his parole terms.
Martinez even altered his urine samples that he was required to submit.
The defendant’s aunt, Sid Martinez, gave a statement to the court.
She said it was amazing how parallel Martinez and Vallie’s lives were.
“Please know that we are terribly disappointed in his actions, but we don’t love him any less,” said Sid Martinez. “But it’s drug use on the behalf of both parties that brought us here today.”
She said Martinez’ mother is also a methamphetamine addict and his father was not around.
“The problem was not the love we offered, but it was not enough,” she said. “He longed for his mother, like any child.”
Sid Martinez said her nephew often was left without a home as a child and would wonder as a teenager and adult whether his next home would have an expiration date.
“When he pulled that trigger and then left, that’s what he’s done his whole life,” said Sid Martinez.
In an emotional conclusion, the woman said her nephew went to prison as a boy and came out a young man without any guidance.
Family of both the victim and defendant were crying during the testimony.
“I do believe the system has failed,” she said. “Jonathon, I want you to know that no matter what you do I will always love you.”
Inez, another aunt of Martinez, then took the stand.
“Meth is the devil,” she said. “I’m so sorry we couldn’t save you.”
Inez went on to say that hurt people hurt people and that she wished she could have done more.
Martinez has a daughter and Inez said she wants to break the vicious cycle of drug use with his daughter.
Mercedes Martinez, a cousin of the defendant, said she was very close with Martinez.
“Jonathon’s upbringing is something that’s hard for me to bring up,” the woman wrote. “Jonathon was thrown into a world of drugs and chaos at a young age and it consumed him.”
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito asked for 100 years for the deliberate homicide charge and an additional 10 years for the weapons enhancement conviction.
On an earlier conviction of burglary, Twito said he was asking for 20 years because Martinez is a persistent felony offender.
“We can sit and blame meth for all of this, but that’s not what makes Mr. Martinez a violent offender. It’s the fact that he reacts with violence,” said Twito. “He was a danger to this community in 2006. He was an incredible danger.”
Twito said the corrections system didn’t fail Martinez, rather he failed every opportunity that he was given.
“Judge, I’m asking you to do the hardest thing a judge has to do. Put him away so he can never be out in this community again.”
Twito said the claim that the shooting was an accident is an “absolute farce.”
“Since 18, he’s been nothing but a terror,” said Twito.
Twito said Martinez worked to scare witnesses so he could avoid responsibility.
Another indication of Martinez’ personality was a media photo of Vallie’s dead body that Martinez downloaded to his phone and set as a background, said Twito.
“That was a trophy,” said Twito. “That’s the kind of person he is, judge.”
The defense asked for 60 years for the homicide charge, five years for the weapons enhancement, and five years for the burglary, all to run consecutive.
“Sentencing young people to prison has a negative rehabilitation impact,” said Martinez’ defense attorney. “They’re surrounded by people who aren’t good influences. It hardens you.”
Martinez declined to speak at the sentencing hearing.
Knisely took a 15-minute recess to consider Martinez’ sentence.
“I don’t think anyone was ready for methamphetamine to hit Billings the way it did when it hit Billings,” said Knisely.
Knisely then noted the vast amount of time spent tracking Martinez’ phone, whereabouts, movements, and communications.
“Your wall of fame – your screen saver, yet another crash,” said Knisely. “You tattooed it on your arm. The root of all evil, you tattooed guns, you tattooed grenades on your arm.”
Knisely said that Martinez’ poor performance in rehabilitation and failure to comply with orders far outweighs his bad childhood.
Knisely said Martinez shot Vallie just 12 days after he was released from prison.
Martinez’s burglary conviction stemmed from a case where he beat a man with a stick for $300.
Knisely recounted Martinez’ testimony that if he had wanted to kill Vallie, he would have shot him more than once.