For Mimi Roldan, the last four years have been filled with unimaginable pain.
On July 4, 2008, in the midst of thousands of people waiting for the holiday fireworks show to start, a gang-related brawl left her 15-year-old son Emmanuel dead from a stab wound to the heart.
But that realization didn’t even have a chance to settle for Mimi Roldan before she found out her older son David — then 17 — was in custody. He, along with three others, would be charged in his younger brother’s murder. “They didn’t give me time to cry,” Mimi Roldan said. “It was one pain after another pain.”
Tuesday, Mimi Roldan said, was “another very sad day in my life.” That’s because Tuesday was when David Roldan was sentenced to 11 years in state prison. Rather than risk potential life in prison, Roldan, along with Miguel Marquez, Daniel Cervantes, and Victor Arroyo, took a plea deal that guarantees they will live on the outside of prison walls again.
All four — three of them juveniles at the time of the homicide — pleaded to voluntary manslaughter. Arroyo and Marquez also pleaded to a felony charge of street terrorism. While Roldan received the lowest sentence, Arroyo received 17 years, Marquez 16 years, and Cervantes 13 years. Each of the four received credit for nearly four-and-a-half years served behind bars. The killing was the third high-profile, gang-related stabbing in 18 months in Santa Barbara. All three court cases have concluded with significant sentences for those involved.
According to prosecutor Kimberly Smith, a group of Westside gang members and affiliates had gathered at Marquez’s home on West Gutierrez Street on the day of the stabbing, where they plotted to get revenge on the Eastside gang for the other two high-profile stabbings — the killings of Luis “Angel” Linares and Lorenzo “Nemo” Carachure. Smith said that Marquez worked as the ringleader in organizing a group to head to the beach. “Let’s beat them up; let’s just go do this,” Marquez said, according to court documents. “Let’s go gang-banging.”
A fight did break out, and police quickly arrived to sort out what had happened. Arroyo was detained near the dolphin fountain, not wearing a shirt, with blood on the front and back of his pants, according to documents. Cervantes was west of the fountain, with a stab wound. David Roldan was holding his brother, who had been stabbed once in the chest. “Thank you for being at my brother Emmanuel’s side,” Guadalupe Roldan told her other brother David in court Tuesday morning. “I’m glad it was you who got to hold him as he was passing away. He probably felt safe in your arms.”
Smith said in court that a knife found in Arroyo’s pocket had traces of his blood as well as blood that matched the DNA of the deceased. “The forensic evidence speaks volumes about what occurred out there,” Smith said.
While the DNA pointed to potential culpability, it remains unclear who exactly stabbed the younger Roldan. Under a complex legal theory, the prosecution could have argued that the “natural and probable consequence” of the group plotting to attack rival gang members and arming themselves with knives was that someone could be killed. That is how David Roldan — whose mother said loved his younger brother as if they were twins — could have been charged with the murder.
Smith was very aware of the pain the Roldans were going through. “Clearly we recognize that their family is suffering for the loss of their son, who was killed as a result of gang activity,” Smith said after the hearing.
Mimi Roldan asked the judge and attorneys to reconsider the penalty. “It’s as if, that day, both of them were gone because neither of them came back,” Mimi Roldan said, asking if she could hug her son, who will come back into the community as a 28-year-old. Judge Brian Hill said the case was a “senseless, unnecessary tragedy.
“Relatives will marry, relatives will have birthdays, and you’re not going to see any of that,” he told the four. “You’re going to be in prison. And for no good reason.”