Pasco convicted killer loses appeal, keeps lengthy sentence

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldMarch 9, 2013 

PASCO -- A Franklin County judge was justified in sending a convicted killer back to prison with a 23 1/2-year sentence after seating a jury to review the facts, a state appellate court ruled.

DeLonde Pleasant lost his attempt to get the sentence shortened so he could be a free man now, 11 years after he stomped and pummeled his live-in girlfriend to death.

Pleasant, who vowed at his re-sentencing in June 2011 that he would not appeal again, went ahead and filed the motion on his own.

He said his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses was violated when prosecutors used prior testimony from his brother and cousin, because they weren't available for a March 2011 hearing before a new jury.

He also claimed prosecutorial misconduct for jurors being told the victim continued to feel pain even when unconscious, and said the trial court should have been ordered to give him a new term within the standard range.

The decision released Thursday by the Washington state Court of Appeals means Pleasant will remain behind bars for at least 12 more years, not counting time off for good behavior.

He is at Airway Heights Corrections Center near Spokane, according to the state Department of Corrections website.

Pleasant, now 33, killed Juanita Montelongo on March 3, 2003, after he returned to their Pasco home from a night of drinking and gambling.

She pleaded with her boyfriend to stop the assault, telling him that she loved him. He has admitted that he "just lost it," and only stopped when she was unresponsive.

Montelongo, 20, was pronounced dead later that morning at Kennewick General Hospital. A forensic pathologist said she had about 100 blows to her body, including four distinctive boot prints and a fresh bite mark.

The couple had been together for at least three years and had a 2-year-old son together. Montelongo also had a 4-year-old son.

Pleasant pleaded guilty a year later to first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to 25 1/2 years in prison.

After losing one appeal, his petition for review to the Washington Supreme Court was granted, and the Court of Appeals ultimately was ordered to reconsider its earlier decision in Pleasant's matter in light of a recent ruling in another case.

At issue was whether then-Superior Court Judge Carolyn Brown had the authority to give Pleasant a sentence three times above the standard range.

The range for first-degree manslaughter is 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 years.

Brown based the exceptional sentence on three aggravating factors: The crime involved deliberate cruelty; it happened in the presence of the couple's young son; and more force was used to injure Montelongo than was necessary to commit the crime.

Pleasant argued that his constitutional rights were violated because the aggravating factors should have been decided by a jury and not the judge. The appeals court agreed the second time around and in January 2009 vacated Pleasant's lengthy sentence.

Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell presided over Pleasant's case after Brown's retirement.

Mitchell seated a Franklin County jury in 2011 to listen to testimony and review evidence. The panel took less than 20 minutes to determine that Pleasant's actions were deliberately cruel and were done while their 2-year-old slept in another room.

That cleared the way for Mitchell to send Pleasant back to prison.

At his re-sentencing three months later, Pleasant pleaded with the judge to give him another chance and let him walk out a free man.

Pleasant said while inside prison walls for nine years he'd participated in anger management, chemical dependency and vocational programs, and then stood before the court with "a new heart."

He added that Montelongo didn't deserve the abuse, that he was an angry man who did not love or respect himself when he killed his girlfriend and that regardless of the time the judge handed down, he will "be doing a life sentence."

Mitchell cut two years off Pleasant's previous sentence, recognizing that the Montelongo family may be angered by the shortened term. He said nothing would undo the tragedy or be sufficient enough to take away their loss, and explained that the sentence was "fair and just under the circumstances of this case."

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