Prosecutors said Monday that there were things a Belgrade man who lied to police to cover for a friend accused of killing a pedestrian in Manhattan could’ve done differently.
Gallatin County prosecutor Erin Murphy said Daniel Sifuentes, who was a passenger in a car that hit and killed 76-year-old Truman Emmelkamp, could have convinced the driver to stop and help Emmelkamp. If he was unable to force the driver to stop, she said, Sifuentes could have called 911.
“Mr. Sifuentes did play a substantial role in this case,” Murphy said.
Instead, she said, Sifuentes worked with the driver to fabricate a story to cover up the “horrific” crime.
Sifuentes was sentenced Monday to seven years to the Montana Department of Corrections, with four suspended, for his role in the wreck that killed Emmelkamp.
Sifuentes, who pleaded guilty to felony obstructing justice in February, appeared with attorney Chuck Watson in Gallatin County District Court before Judge Rienne McElyea.
Michael Leo Moreno, a co-defendant in the case, is charged with tampering with evidence, vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol and failure to remain or stop at a crash scene, all felonies. He has pled not guilty to the charges but is expected to change his plea at a court appearance this Friday.
In October, Moreno hit Emmelkamp
with his car and left Emmelkamp on Stagecoach Trail Road, according to charging documents. Emmelkamp died at the scene.
Police said in charging documents that Sifuentes and Moreno admitted they were in the car that hit Emmelkamp and later stashed the car at a storage unit before walking to Moreno’s home. The two also admitted making up a story about being robbed at gunpoint to cover up the incident, court documents say.
In court on Monday, Sifuentes apologized to members of the Emmelkamp family who were sitting in the courtroom. He said he was scared that he’d go to jail and never see his wife and kids again.
“I hope that the family could find it in their heart to forgive me one day,” Sifuentes said.
Watson said Sifuentes is responsible for what happened after the collision. He said Sifuentes has had a chaotic upbringing and was ready to serve the sentence for his crime.
“We have every reason to believe that Mr. Sifuentes will take this event and what has happened to him, and do something positive with it,” Watson said.
Judge McElyea imposed a harsher sentence than the five years of probation that prosecutors and Watson recommended. She acknowledged that the Emmelkamp family disagreed with the plea bargain and hoped for the maximum sentence.
She noted that Sifuentes’ friends wrote that he is a kind, loving and caring man who “would never hesitate to help anyone in need.”
“The problem is the defendant did more than hesitate. He used deception to try to get out of a bad situation,” McElyea said.