GOSHEN — Two men connected to the killing of a Bristol man in 2020 where each sentenced to 40 years in prison during Elkhart County Circuit Court proceedings Thursday.
Luis Garcia, 22, Elkhart, and Carlos Escobar Escobedo, 20, Aurora, Illinois, each appeared before Judge Michael Christofeno for sentencing hearings in their cases early Thursday morning.
The two men had been charged with murder and robbery resulting in serious bodily injury in connection with the killing of Joshua Roberts, 21, during an apparent robbery in October 2020. Roberts was found dead when police responded to a vehicle crash in the Timberbrook Mobile Home Park along C.R. 19 in Bristol. An autopsy found Roberts died from a gunshot wound.
A jury trial for the two men had been scheduled for March 21, though the trial was later dropped after the two entered guilty pleas in December 2021 to the robbery resulting in serious bodily injury charge, a Level 2 felony, as well as a penalty enhancement for use of a firearm during the robbery. As a stipulation of their plea agreements, the murder charge was dropped for both men.
Prior to their sentencing, several members of Roberts’ family were given the chance to address the court.
Among them was Roberts’ stepmother, Candy Roberts.
“I just wanted to say how much of a loss this has been to our family,” Candy said, her voice cracking as she spoke through tears. “He was a bright, bright young man, and he was taken way too soon.”
Also sharing a few comments was Roberts’ girlfriend, Sara Brownlee, who spoke about the impact Roberts’ loss has had on her and their young daughter.
“We have a daughter. She’s really young. She asks about her dad all the time," Brownlee said. "My kid doesn’t get to have a dad because they took him. It’s their fault. She has to live without him. We all do. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that they get to be here and he doesn’t. ... I hope they both get what they deserve.”
In providing his closing arguments, Escobar Escobedo’s public defender, Matt Johnson, pointed to the 20-year-old’s young age, mental health issues and difficult childhood as mitigating factors in the case.
“He has shown remorse for the situation, and he has taken responsibility through his plea agreement,” Johnson told the court. “I would also note that he does have some major mental health issues, and it looks as if, through the PSI, he had a very rough childhood, with his parents not being around much. ... So, with that, I think that the plea agreement here is very appropriate under the circumstances, and we’re asking the court to sentence accordingly.”
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joel Williams, speaking on behalf of the state, pointed to what he called the senselessness of the crime when providing his closing argument Thursday.
“The word that comes to mind for this case, for both of these defendants, is that this was senseless,” Williams said. “When you go and do a robbery, it’s bad enough. But when you bring a gun along, things routinely can go bad, because people are going to sometimes fight, and then the result here was that Joshua Roberts was shot. ... Clearly, that senselessness resulted in a great loss for the Roberts family.”
Escobar Escobedo, too, was given an opportunity to address the court prior to his sentencing, and took the time to apologize for his part in Roberts’ killing and the impact his death has had on the Roberts family.
“I don’t really talk about the situation that happened to anybody,” Escobar Escobedo said. “I never took the situation and tried to get no cool points. I don’t think it was cool. ... Like, I don’t brag about it to nobody. I don’t feel proud about it.
“I’m sorry to the family,” he added. “Like, there’s really nothing you could say with words that will make a family feel better about losing somebody. But the best I can do is attempt to show them that I’m sorry. I don’t know how to do that, and I hope that one day they could learn to realize that it was never meant to happen the way it happened. But, I’m sorry. There’s no really other way to put it. The best I can say is I’m sorry.”
With his sentencing, Escobar Escobedo will serve 30 years at the Indiana Department of Correction, with 10 years suspended and 10 years on reporting probation, for the charge of robbery resulting in serious bodily injury. In addition, the sentence was enhanced pursuant to the plea agreement to include an additional 10 years at the IDOC for use of a firearm during the robbery, for a total sentence of 40 years at the IDOC with 10 years suspended and 10 years on reporting probation.
“You’re a young man, and you are, pursuant to this plea bargain agreement, going to grow up at the Department of Correction,” Christofeno said prior to the sentencing. “And you will, eventually, be released, and I hope when you are released, you will be fully rehabilitated. And I hope that somehow the family of Joshua Roberts can find some peace, because your actions have destroyed two families: Joshua Roberts’ family and your own family.”
Following Escobar Escobedo’s sentencing, Garcia’s attorney, David Francisco, was called to provide his closing argument on behalf of Garcia.
“Like the codefendant, Luis is a young man. He’s 22 years of age," Francisco said. "I would ask that you consider that in mitigation, as well as the fact that he plead guilty and accepted responsibility in this case. By pleading guilty, your honor, it is certainly our hope that that provides some sense of closure to the Roberts family and Ms. Brownlee.”
Francisco also pointed to Garcia’s rough upbringing as a mitigating factor in the case.
In response, Williams, again speaking as prosecutor on behalf of the state, noted that there are plenty of people with similar backgrounds to Garcia’s that don’t go on to commit violet crimes.
“The actions of Luis Garcia and Carlos Escobar Escobedo were senseless,” Williams reiterated. “There are many people that have hard lives, and they grow up under harsh conditions, and they don’t decide to take things from other people, especially violently, at gunpoint.”
For his final comments, Garcia limited his words to a brief apology to the Roberts family.
“I just want to say I’m sorry to the family,” Garcia said. “I know they are hurting a lot for my actions, and I apologize for it.”
With his sentencing, Garcia, like Escobar Escobedo, will serve 40 years at the IDOC, with 10 years suspended and 10 years on reporting probation.
“Mr. Garcia, you are obviously older than Mr. Escobar Escobedo, but in many ways, you are still very, very young, with a lot of growing up to do,” Christofeno said prior to the sentencing. “I say to you, again, this is a tragic, tragic scenario on your part, where you have destroyed two families: the Roberts family and your own.”