A 19-year-old man was sentenced Monday morning in Clark County Superior Court to 6½ years in prison for the death of another teenager during a 2017 drug robbery gone wrong.
Judge Scott Collier imposed the prosecution’s recommended sentence of 78 months on a charge of first-degree manslaughter against Jaycob Trotter. The sentencing range is actually 95 to 125 months, but Trotter’s sentence was reduced because the court took into account his youth at the time of the crime.
Collier addressed the family of the victim, 16-year-old Cesar D. Ortiz-Velasco, at the end of the hearing, stating he took their loss into consideration in making his sentencing decision.
“You will never be able to have your son back. I thought about that,” Collier said as family hugged Trotter.
Trotter originally faced charges of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and hit-and-run resulting in death, court records say. The charges were amended, and Trotter pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge during Monday’s hearing.
Trotter was 16 when he and Christopher Pierce, 15, were arrested in Ortiz-Velasco’s death.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Trotter drove with Pierce to the Safeway parking lot at 13875 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., just before 2 p.m. May 26 to meet Ortiz-Velasco. The meeting was arranged to sell Ortiz-Velasco marijuana for $120 cash, but Pierce admitted to detectives he planned to steal the money without delivering the drugs.
Trotter drove the vehicle, and Pierce sat in the front seat as Ortiz-Velasco approached the passenger’s side door, the court document states. Pierce grabbed the money from Ortiz-Velasco and told Trotter to drive, but as they sped away, Ortiz-Velasco held onto the vehicle with one hand, attempting to strike Pierce, the affidavit says. Pierce attempted to roll up his window, and Ortiz-Velasco lost his grip on the door and fell to the ground.
Witnesses reported the vehicle ran over Ortiz-Velasco before Trotter drove away without rendering aid or calling for help, the affidavit states.
Ortiz-Velasco suffered multiple skull fractures, chest injuries, abrasions and bruises. He was initially put on life support but died later that day, court records say.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor James Smith said Trotter’s actions led to Ortiz-Velasco’s premature death. The defense argued in a sentencing affidavit that Trotter was not an aggressor, but Smith argued that assertion was false. The judge said he agreed with Smith.
The prosecutor said the recommended sentence was imperfect, but he believed it was closer to what Ortiz-Velasco’s parents desired.
Reynaldo Ortiz said the years since his son’s death have been difficult on the family, who had been kept up to date on the progress of the case but took issue with the state’s recommended sentence as it fell below the standard range.
“It’s like a slap in the face to us,” Ortiz said through a Spanish translator. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be happy again.”
Defense attorney Thomas Phelan said twice during the hearing that Ortiz-Velasco’s death was the result of “immature judgement” by all three boys. Phelan put much of the blame on Pierce, however. He said Trotter was never advised of the drug deal, and Pierce told Trotter he called Ortiz-Velasco afterward and said he was OK.
In an email to The Columbian after the hearing, Phelan disputed the drug transaction being characterized as a robbery. He said no physical force or weapon was used and that it was a theft. However, the prosecution from the beginning of the case characterized it as a “drug rip,” slang for a drug robbery.
Phelan also argued in court that Trotter’s punishment should match Pierce’s, whose case was handled in Clark County Juvenile Court. Pierce pleaded guilty in December 2017 to second-degree murder and was sentenced to confinement anywhere from 180 weeks up until age 21.
Phelan proposed a sentence for Trotter between three and four years.
“Jaycob is being made the whipping boy,” Phelan said.
When given the chance to speak, Trotter faced Ortiz-Velasco’s parents and said that for the past two years, he’d been praying for their family.
“I know nothing I say will bring your son back, but I hope and pray that someday I receive your forgiveness,” Trotter said.