New sentence handed down for convicted murderer

SEATTLE -- A convicted murderer was hoping for leniency Friday after a technicality sent him back to court for a new sentence. But instead of leniency, Brian Ronquillo learned he'll spend at least 24 more years in prison.

"Words can't fully express how remorseful I am," said Ronquillo, speaking directly to victim Missy Fernandez's mother. "I know that sorry ain't enough, but I truly am sorry, so, so sorry."

But Ronquillo's remorse didn't matter.

"I feel the weight of his remorse in my heart," said Ronquillo's wife, Natalia.

None of the testimony of Ronquillo's good conduct in prison or the scientific testimony about the impulsiveness of the adolescent brain made a difference.

What mattered was what happened, and how the law read, 20 years ago.

"The record is devoid of anything but indications that the defendant was mature and sophisticated at the time this offense was committed," said King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Julie Kline

Twenty years ago, Missy Fernandez was just standing in front of Ballard High School that day after classes when three young men drove by. Brian Ronquillo, in the passenger seat, started firing at the group of students. Missy wasn't an intended target, but she was the one who died.

"My sorrow is deeper than I can share," said Missy's mother, Tammy Fernandez. "The experience has left me and my surviving daughters, my family members and friends devastated."

A minor technicality with the way Ronquillo's sentence was configured had the Court of Appeals sending it back for a new sentence. But Missy's mother and other extended family members pleaded with Judge Beth Andrus not to change Ronquillo's original sentence of 52 years in prison.

Tammy Fernandez told the Judge she could say much more about her daughter, "but speaking about her rips my heart out I love and I miss her every day."

Andrus ruled that the law restricted what she could do. She re-imposed the original 52 year sentence. With time of for good behavior, Ronquillo still faces at least 24 years in prison. Both Ronquillo and Fernandez were 16-years old at the time of the murder.