Exactly a month ago, I had trouble sleeping after covering an emotionally exhausting hearing.
Carlos Quevedo, who stabbed to death a Rapid City convenience store clerk when he was 17, was sentenced that afternoon to 90 years in prison.
Store security video – played publicly for the first time – showed Carlos begin to stab 45-year-old Kasie Lord as she tried to stop his companion from running off with a case of beer. Another camera captured Carlos following Kasie as she backed out of the store and disappeared from view.
Police later found her bleeding out in the store parking lot from 38 stab wounds.
Carlos said he blacked out during the attack in the early morning of Jan. 18, 2017, after taking a combination of vodka, marijuana, cough tablets and soda laced with cough syrup.
The sentencing hearing lasted seven hours, during which a dozen people testified for the prosecution and defense. They included the victim’s ex-husband, Christopher Lord, whose voice resonated with calmness amid the pain of losing the woman he described as “one of my best friends.”
He talked about Kasie being a light in her family, hoped for healing not just among her three children but also in the community and said the crime had been traumatic too for the perpetrators. (Carlos’ companion who stole the beer was sentenced the previous day to 7-1/2 years in prison for robbery.)
I found no trace of anger in Christopher’s words, which was rare in the victims of violent crimes I’ve seen speak in court. I was seated right behind him in the gallery, and noticed at certain points in the daylong hearing that he seemed to be praying.
There’s enough anger in “that world that we see out there,” Christopher told me outside the courthouse after the hearing. “That’s toxic, and I don’t want that in my vessel, I don’t want that in my life and I don’t want that in my children.”
He wanted to focus instead on love, compassion and forgiveness. But he said coming to a place of “understanding” involved a grieving process that included going into the woods of Wisconsin and Minnesota and surrendering his emotions to God.
Several minutes earlier, the wailing of Carlos’ mother hung in the air as people stepped out of the courthouse.
Alisia Quevedo had also taken the stand that day, revealing the dysfunction that characterized Carlos’ childhood. Alisia, who was 16 when Carlos was born, said she and the boy’s father had used meth on a weekly basis. Carlos saw his dad cycle in and out of jail on drug charges, and when he was 12, watched police arrest his parents at home.
Carlos apparently witnessed his dad routinely abuse his mom, including holding a gun to her head and leaving her with bruises and broken bones. At the same time, he had to take care of three younger siblings and encouraged Alisia to become sober.
Various relatives described him as a quiet and respectful boy. But did he one day just snap as a result of the violence that permeated his young life, the judge asked before handing down his sentence. It was 10 years short of the 100 years prosecutors had requested.
I wondered how many other children were going through a similar childhood. How would the traumatic experiences set them back for life? How many would also end up in prison?
Carlos will become eligible for parole after serving half of his sentence in the South Dakota penitentiary. He would then be 62 years old.