AZTEC — Two sides of Martin Casas-Rodriguez's family were pitted against each other Monday morning during an emotional sentencing hearing for his second-degree murder conviction.
At the end of the hearing, District Judge John Dean sentenced Casas-Rodriguez, 55, to the maximum sentence negotiated in his plea agreement, which was nine years in prison followed by five years of probation.
Casas-Rodriguez shot and killed his father, Eleuterio Casas, who was crippled from Alzheimer's disease, in April 2012 at Casas-Rodriguez's Farmington home.
About 15 of Casas-Rodriguez's family members asked the judge to be lenient. Three of his relatives asked for Casas-Rodriguez to be sentenced to nine years.
Casas-Rodriguez pleaded "no contest" April 10 to shooting and killing his 90-year-old father.
Casas-Rodriguez said he accidentally shot his father while pointing a gun at him to scare him.
He said his father had made inappropriate sexual advances toward several female family members, according to court documents.
Casas-Rodriguez told police his father had started acting sexually inappropriate as the disease progressed, according to the documents.
He said in a police interview after his arrest he shot Casas when he was standing and then placed Casas in his bed.
Assistant District Attorney David Cowen said in court that the state had forensic evidence showing that Casas-Rodriguez shot his father from point-blank range while Casas was lying in bed.
Georgina Montelongo, Casas' granddaughter, said the shooting robbed the family of its final days with Casas.
"We all knew he was passing, but he robbed us of the time we had left with him," she said.
She said Alzheimer's disease was the reason Casas' behavior changed before he was shot.
"That disease plays with your head," she said.
Sexually inappropriate behavior isn't uncommon among Alzheimer's patients as the disease progresses, said Myles Copeland, the communications and advocacy director for the Alzheimer's Association, New Mexico Chapter.
"Alzheimer's varies from person to person, how it manifests itself," he said. "We think of it chiefly as impacting memory, but it also winds up impacting people's ability to reason in a way that alters their personality."
"The behavior is being driven by the disease and that's what we want to keep in mind," he said.
People who spoke on Casas-Rodriguez's behalf said he was a hard worker who instilled a strong work ethic in his children and grandchildren. They said he was religious and the only person in the family willing to care for his sick father.
"We took (Casas) into our home when no one else would or could," Christine Casas, Casas-Rodriguez's wife, said. "He does not deserve to go to jail for as long as they want him to go."
Martin Casas, Jr., Casas-Rodriguez's adult son, asked Dean to allow his father to return to the family.
"I saw the stress my grandfather put on the family," he said. Casas-Rodriguez "deserves to be with his family. He did what he did but it was not done maliciously."
During the hearing, members of the family repeatedly pointed fingers at one another for failing to care for Casas as his condition worsened. Dean several times interrupted the family members when they started accusing each other.
"This isn't a case about justifying what happened," Dean said. "What happened was a horrible thing. This was a dreadful mistake by a person in the worst of situations."
Ryan Boetel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4644. Follow him on Twitter @boetel.