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Man sentenced to life with possibility of parole after conviction in 2019 vape juice murder

Posted at 12:51 PM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 14:51:36-04

DENVER – An Arapahoe County judge on Wednesday sentenced a man to life in prison with the possibility of parole for his role in the 2019 shooting death of a Centennial teenager over vape juice.

Kenneth Gallegos, now 19, will be eligible for parole after 40 years in prison as terms of his sentence. A jury convicted Gallegos in April on counts of felony murder, attempted aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and attempted theft.

Gallegos and three other teenagers were arrested in May 2019 after 18-year-old Llloyd Chavez IV, a student at Cherokee Trail High School, was shot and killed during what police called an attempted robbery of vaping juice.

All four were charged as adults originally, but the adult charges against two of the suspects were later dropped by prosecutors, according to court records.

The fourth suspect, Demarea Mitchell, has pleaded not guilty to counts of felony murder, attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery and two potential sentence enhancers. His case is set to go to trial in July.

Chavez was killed just days before he was set to graduate from high school. He played rugby for the Aurora Saracens Rugby club, and his coached called him “a great kid from a great family with a ton of potential.”

Police documents said that Gallegos and Serrano had planned the robbery for days, negotiating a deal with Chavez over Snapchat. Chavez was shot and killed in outside a vehicle the four suspects were in after a struggle over the $25 for the vape juice, according to an affidavit.

Before Chavez died, he told a nurse at the hospital he believed “Kenny” had shot him, according to the records.

Chavez’s family members spoke to the judge and court before Gallegos was sentenced. His grandmother read a statement from his younger sister, who was the first to see Chavez after he was shot.

“What happened that night has scarred me for life, and I can’t get it out of my head,” she said, according to a statement provided by the district attorney’s office. “And I have to live without him every day of my life.”

Chavez’s aunt called Gallegos a “callous, hollow, remorseless human” and asked for the strongest sentence that could be delivered. And Chavez’s grandmother said that Gallegos “is only sorry that he got caught.”

Judge Ben Leutwyler handed down the maximum sentence that Gallegos could face as a juvenile convicted of adult charges, including felony murder.

“If Kenneth Gallegos lived the things he learned in kindergarten, we would not be here today,” Leutwyler said. “But for your actions, Lloyd Chavez would be alive. You set the events in motion. … I am struck by the utterly senseless decisions that were made that day.”

Court records also show that Chavez’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Arapahoe County District Court in May against the original four suspects and family members of theirs. A status hearing in that case is set for July 12.