It doesn’t take much for the vicious memories to come flooding back to Gene Glinsmann.
A wayward thought. A tale of innocents being shot in a South Carolina church, an Oregon college and, this weekend, at a Kalamazoo, Michigan, restaurant.
Let alone a resentencing hearing.
Monday, Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon resentenced Juan Castaneda to 105 to 125 years in prison for the Nov. 12, 2008, spree that left three Omahans shot, two of them fatally. Castaneda will not be eligible for parole until he’s 67; absent parole, he won’t be released until he’s 77.
Seven years ago, Omahans suffered through a burst of gun violence as random as the spree in Kalamazoo on Saturday night.
On Nov. 12, 2008, Glinsmann’s daughter, Tari, and an Omaha man, Luis Fernando Silva, were shot and killed as three teenagers tore through eastern and central Omaha shooting indiscriminately, purportedly on behalf of their gang, Must Be Criminals.
Castaneda was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the spree.
Then the U.S. Supreme Court decided that juvenile lifers must be resentenced, citing emerging science that says juveniles’ brains don’t fully comprehend the consequences of their actions. After that Supreme Court decision, Nebraska lawmakers set the sentencing range for juvenile killers at 40 years to life in prison. Castaneda was the 12th of the 27 juvenile lifers to be resentenced.
“It’s very, very hard,” Gene Glinsmann said. “I’m sorry he’s a young guy, but he deserved what he got. We were just starting to get over it and we’ve got to go through it again. And we’ll have to do it one more time.”
The gunman that night, Eric “Scrappy” Ramirez, then 17, also will go through a resentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. A third gang member who cooperated with authorities, Edgar “Blackie” Cervantes, then 18, was sentenced to 96 to 115 years in prison.
Castaneda’s attorney, Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley, cast Castaneda’s role in the crime as minimal. At the time, he was a straight-A student with an unstable home life. His mother suffered from schizophrenia — a mental illness of which Castaneda also has shown signs, Riley said.
In prison, Castaneda has disavowed gangs and has returned to his studies. Riley acknowledged that his client had a number of outbursts while incarcerated — including once assaulting a prison guard — but he said those have stopped now that he is receiving medication for his mental illness.
On Nov. 12, 2008, Castaneda was a 15-year-old with the gang name “Hectic.”
That cold November night, he and his fellow gang members decided to put in “work” for their gang by unleashing random gun violence on a cross-section of the community.
Ramirez shot 22-year-old Luis Fernando-Silva — a new father who worked hard at his job at Kona Grill — as Silva sat in his driveway near 14th and Martha Streets.
Silva had returned home but had yet to go inside. He was texting his girlfriend “good night” when he was shot in the head. Castaneda then stole Silva’s wallet — and the three gang members left him dead in the driveway.
Minutes later, the three took their spree through Dundee, where Ramirez shot at Charles Denton and Hillary Nelsen at an ATM. Nelsen wasn’t hit, but Denton was struck in the shoulder. He survived.
Then, about 20 minutes later, Castaneda pulled Tari Glinsmann, 27, out of her vehicle after she had just finished her shift and closed a convenience store at 52nd and Leavenworth Streets.
Surveillance video traced Glinsmann’s last moments alive. She closed up the shop, checked under the hood of her friend’s Ford Taurus, then realized she had left her stocking cap inside the store.
Had she not gone back into the store, Gene Glinsmann said Monday, Tari would have been out of harm’s way. But lightning struck as she left the store a second time.
Just like Silva, Tari had sent a final text to her best friend that day.
It read simply: I love you.
Glinsmann said his daughter was a sweet young woman who was quick to laugh and listen. She gave good advice. And she was a daddy’s girl. Glinsmann’s youngest daughter often called her dad for a dinner date.
One of those impromptu calls came a day before her death.
“Dad,” she said, “will you bring me some King Kong?”
So Gene Glinsmann brought the chow to her store. As the two ate, Tari told her dad they needed to plan a trip for 2009. The fun-loving girl wanted to go to Dollywood to see the amusement park created by her childhood fascination, Dolly Parton.
That was the last dad talked to daughter. He typically called her every day. But the next day, he talked to her friend, who had just seen Tari. So he figured he’d leave his baby girl alone.
She died that night.
“When something like this happens, you have all these little regrets,” Gene Glinsmann said. “That kind of bothers me — that I didn’t call her.”
Something else bothers him: Though the teens claimed their crimes were part of a robbery spree, they didn’t give Tari a chance. Ramirez shot her immediately, as Castaneda stood behind him. (Investigators found a palm print matching Castaneda’s on Glinsmann’s car.) Then the teens took off; they didn’t even bother to take her cash.
That shows that this spree was simply about killing for sport, Glinsmann said. Two good young people — Luis and Tari — were simply target practice.
“They have no idea what they took,” he said. “How tenderhearted she was. Tari was a very giving person. Just an overall sweet person.”