Girl Interrupted

The chains around Terra Ramirez's feet clanked on the wooden jury box as she was escorted into Denver District Court today for her sentencing. Terra (left, above) was facing up to fifteen 15 years in prison for her role in a drive-by shooting in the summer of 2005.

Judge Christina Habas pushed a box of tissue forward for Terra's mother, Teresa, as she got up to address the court. Teresa told how Terra had been raised with values and morals, but then was twice a victim -- once of sexual assault when she was just a child, and again as a shooting victim at the other end of a drive-by a few months before Terra caught the case for which she now was being sentencing.

"Please suspend her sentence," Teresa pleaded. "All I'm asking for is a chance."

Next, the two little girls who were hit with stray bullets fired from the gun of Terra's friend stepped up.

"I will overcome this tragedy," said Kenia Venzor., the older of the two sisters. "I forgive Terra for only one reason," said Celine, "for making me and my sister stronger." (The girls' mother told the court that she hadn't really understood the circumstances surrounding that night until she read "Girl Crazy" in Westword.)

Both the defense and prosecution agreed that Terra had stepped forward and helped with the prosecution of Andy Rubio, the triggerman in the shooting. (Terra had called him in to help her settle a beef with some rival girls. Rubio [shown above] was sentenced to 180 years two months ago; Natalie McFarlane [above right], who was also along that night, will be sentenced on November 14.)

Then it was Terra's turn to address the court.

"Your honor, I want to apologize to the Venzor family, to my family and to you," she said as tears began to overwhelm her. "I'm asking you to give me one chance and please suspend my sentencing. I assure you you will never see me in your courtroom again."

Terra told the judge that she hopes to use her experience as both a victim and perpetrator of gang violence to help keep other kids from making the same mistake she did.

But given the nature of the crime Terra had confessed to, a suspended sentence was not an option. Instead, Terra was given time credit for the 420 days she'd served so far -- and sent to the Colorado Department of Corrections for another ten years.

Terra will still be a young woman when she gets out of prison, Habas pointed out, adding that she still expects Terra to use her experiences to help keep others out of trouble. "I believe that you tried to stop this, but you started it," the judge said. "I truly wish you the best of luck, I do." -- Luke Turf

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun