Plea agreement reached in Thornton 16-year-old's death

Girl's mother made tough choice
Posted at 9:51 PM, Jan 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-10 01:09:38-05

THORNTON, Colo. --  A Thornton mother's quest for justice for her 16-year-old daughter came with a very tough decision – send the killer to jail for a few years or chance him getting off without jail time by going to trial.

Haley Vargaz was shot to death at a homecoming party in Sept. 2016.

"It's just a battle every day that I have to wake up to and deal with," said Emelda Vargaz, Haley's mother.

Like most 16 year olds, Haley was learning to drive and loved to do her makeup. But unlike most teens, she had already battled and beaten cancer and had serious plans to go into the medical field.

"She was an amazing child, that's for sure," said Vargaz. "She volunteered at the hospital. She had good grades. She was on the right track."

But at a homecoming house party, she was struck and killed by random gunfire. Eventually, a grand jury indicted Angelo Alvarez, who was 17 years old at the time of the shooting, stating that he was "firing a handgun into a crowd of people," and charged him with first-degree murder with extreme indifference.

Since then however, Alvarez has plead guilty to second-degree murder, and faces a sentence of five years in youth offender services.

His attorney, Harvey Steinberg, said Alvarez was not interested in commenting.

"We would not have been interested in the agreement if we didn't think it was both fair and appropriate," said Steinberg. 

His sentencing hearing is Friday.

Vargaz said prosecutors were concerned about unreliable and intimidated witnesses.

"That's why I went with the plea bargain. Because it would have hurt me even worse if he would have walked away free," said Vargaz. "If we lost the trial, we would never be able to charge him again."

Vargaz said she couldn't gamble on a trial if it could have meant no justice for her little girl, but she wishes the justice system were different.

"Don't get me wrong. I wish it was better, but something is better than nothing," she said. "Come judgment day, he's going to get his judgment from the man above. He can't run from that."