For Jordan Kilby, there was only one appropriate sentence for Emmanuel Gomez, convicted earlier this year of deliberate homicide in the killing of his girlfriend Charlie Ann Wyrick.
“Keep him locked behind bars in the Montana State Prison until the day that he dies,” the prosecutor requested of District Court Judge Karen Townsend at the end of Gomez’s sentencing hearing on Thursday.
Townsend did just that, sentencing 31-year-old Gomez to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The judge looked at Gomez and repeated a phrase he told people who came looking for Wyrick after she disappeared.
“She’s gone and she ain’t coming back.”
In February, after an eight-day trial, a jury found that Gomez murdered 26-year-old Wyrick, whose body was found in December 2015 at the bottom of a ravine in Deer Creek.
“I just want to tell her how sorry I am for not being there for what he put her through,” Wyrick’s mother Crystal said when it was her turn on the stand at Thursday’s sentencing.
Then she turned to Gomez.
“There’s so much I would like to say to you, but I don’t think the court will let me say it to you.”
She looked down at the framed photo in her lap of Wyrick’s 6-year-old son, then up at Townsend.
“He took this little boy’s mom. A Mother’s Day for Harley will never be the same,” Crystal said.
In her sentencing recommendation Thursday, Kilby reminded the judge that at trial, multiple witnesses testified that Wyrick told them Gomez used to take her to the same spot where her body was eventually found; that he repeatedly beat and threatened to kill her.
“The defendant did exactly what he said he was going to,” Kilby said.
The impact of Wyrick’s death on her family and friends was “unfathomable,” the prosecutor added.
“She meant the world to the people in this courtroom and he took her away from all of them,” she said.
At trial, Wyrick’s friends and family said she suffered an increasing level of abuse from Gomez in the months leading up to her death.
On Dec. 21, 2015, that abuse culminated in a fight between Gomez and Wyrick at his house, where roommates testified they were awakened by yelling before hearing a thump and a scream. They came upstairs in time to see Gomez getting into his SUV and driving away.
Wyrick’s blood was found on the ground leading from the house to the vehicle, as well as inside the SUV. Data from his phone indicated that he drove up to the Pattee Canyon area after the fight.
Medical experts testified that Wyrick, whose body was found stabbed through the chest, was likely still alive when she was pushed off the road and down the embankment.
On Thursday, Wyrick’s best friend Kimberly Mulcare said despite the abuse she suffered at his hands, Wyrick had still loved Gomez up until he killed her.
“Not only was Charlie murdered but she was killed inside by this man,” she said. “You took her life in more ways than one.”
Mulcare said for what he had done, she couldn’t imagine any punishment other than life in prison.
“You don’t deserve a day out in the sun ever again. I hope that you never have a good day while you’re in there,” she said.
Defense attorney Lisa Kauffman urged the judge not to impose the no-parole condition. Without the knowledge that he could one day be released, Gomez would have no incentive to make use of treatment programs in prison or to do any work to rehabilitate and better himself.
“It’s not an eye for an eye, it’s not to get even,” she said. “The only reason that a court would make that decision is to get even.”
The defense’s witnesses at sentencing included a private investigator, Weaver Barkman, who had been on the witness list for trial but never testified. Barkman used his time to lay out alternate theories of how she could have been stabbed at the house, despite the fact that a jury had decided two months ago that Gomez murdered Wyrick.
Laura Kirsh, a clinical psychologist who performed a mental evaluation on Gomez, said Thursday he was “extremely hopeless and depressed.” She went over Gomez’s meth use and a difficult childhood that included him running away to Mexico as a teen.
Former coworkers of Gomez’s called him a hard worker who was quiet but friendly during the time they knew him. John Vandenberg, who owns an upholstery company where Gomez worked, said his laugh had been “infectious” around the shop.
“Couldn’t ask for a better worker,” he said.
Vandenberg’s wife Valerie said she was shocked when she saw the news of Gomez’s arrest.
“The Manny I know would never have done this,” she said. “He was just like family.”
Kauffman referenced some of the behavioral violations Gomez has been cited for while in custody at the jail, including prison wine being found in his cell. Gomez was also one of the inmates who refused to take a drug test after it’s believed another inmate who had been out on release smuggled methamphetamine and opiates into the jail pod he was being kept in.
Throughout the sentencing hearing, Gomez kept his head down and stared at his lap. While he hadn’t spoken in any court appearances since shortly after his arrest, Gomez rose to give a statement before being sentenced.
“Sorry for everything,” he said to the court, before specifically apologizing to Wyrick’s family.