A former gang member who was given a life sentence as a juvenile for killing two rivals was re-sentenced to 63 years in prison on Friday.
With credit for time served since she was locked up more than two decades ago, Jacqueline Montanez will be most likely be free in 7-1/2 years.
Montanez was only 15 when she flirted with and then killed Hector Reyes and Jimmy Cruz on May 12, 1992. Both men were in their early 20s.
Under a 2014 Illinois Supreme Court ruling, Montanez and others who are serving life in prison for murders they committed when they were under the age of 18 are eligible for new sentencing hearings.
That finding was built on a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case that declared mandatory life sentences “cruel and unusual” when issued to convicts who were children when they committed their crimes.
But not everyone thought the 40-year-old Montanez should be given a second chance.
“It’s a travesty. . . . It’s wrong, you can get away with murder,” Cruz’s older brother Jose Cruz said following the hearing. “Every minute that she’s out there taking one breath out of prison, that’s one breath . . . less than Reyes and my brother are able to take. It’s heartbreaking knowing that she’s going to come out once again and enjoy her life.
“This thing about rehabilitation and that’s she’s going to be too old to even experience her life. No, she’s going to enjoy her life. My brother can’t. Hector Reyes can’t.”
Cook County Judge Alfredo Maldonado said he had to follow the law in re-sentencing Montanez. While saying she is clearly not the same person she was when she murdered the men, that doesn’t change what happened, the judge said.
Some of the relatives of the victims left the courtroom when Montanez addressed the judge and said she was a changed person.
Jose Cruz said her sentiments were “fake.”
“I wasn’t going to sit there and listen to what she had to say,” he said.
Letticia Lorenzi was only 4 when her sister, then a Maniac Latin Disciple, committed the crimes. Their mother has since died “waiting for her baby” to come home, Lorenzi said.
“She [Montanez] has feelings and she’s sorry for what she did,” Lorenzi told reporters. “She didn’t come from a white picket fence house. . . . That’s all she knew, gang banging and selling drugs…She was a product of her environment and it wasn’t a good one.”
Montanez kissed Reyes and then shot him in the back of the head while he used a public washroom after she and two others lured the victims to Humboldt Park, prosecutors said.
She then handed a .25-caliber revolver to another woman, who shot Cruz in the back of the head as he walked outside hand in hand with another teen, who was charged in the murder.
Jose Cruz said his “baby brother’s” death tore the family apart.
Reyes’ daughter, Rachel Reyes, 24, had her statement read in court, urging the judge not to let Montanez out any time soon.
“I do not care how emotionally or mentally damaged she was as a child, that will never be a good enough excuse to explain why you decide to commit murder,” Rachel Reyes wrote.