The widow of fallen California Highway Patrol officer Lucas Chellew poignantly mourned her husband’s loss in a Sacramento courtroom full of his surviving family and fellow officers Friday as the man who left the patrolman to die after a fatal high-speed pursuit last February was sentenced to state prison.
“I’ve lost my future, and more importantly, my children have lost theirs,” Christina Chellew told a judge in a powerful address equal parts eulogy and call for justice at the sentencing of Alberto Morales Quiroz Friday in Sacramento Superior Court. Quiroz stood stock still and unblinking inside the courtroom’s holding cell as Christina Chellew told how the “willful actions of a cruel stranger” took the love of the 25-year-old widow’s life, a protector and guardian whose smile knocked her off her feet.
“When you left Lucas to die at the side of the road, you issued a life sentence to me, my children, and everyone who cared for him,” Chellew told Quiroz.
Lucas Chellew was a CHP motor officer, eight years on patrol in its south Sacramento detail when Quiroz, aboard a stolen motorcycle, led the patrolman on a deadly rush-hour chase through south Sacramento that ended when Chellew was cut off by another motorist near Fruitridge Road and Stockton Boulevard. Chellew lost control of his motorcycle and crashed into a pole. He died later that night at a local hospital. Chellew was 31.
Quiroz pleaded no contest in October to charges related to the motorcycle theft and pursuit. He appeared eager to be sentenced Friday, despite last-minute efforts by his defense counsel Alice Michel to delay sentencing to introduce new motions in the case, telling Sweet at one point: “I’d like to be sentenced today, if you don’t mind.” Michel later offered condolences to Chellew’s family, saying Quiroz “decided not to fight the charges and put the family through more than they’ve already been through.”
On Friday, Quiroz was sentenced to 10 years in state prison in connection with the crimes that triggered the fatal pursuit, a sentence that Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet outlined almost apologetically to Chellew’s survivors and comrades. Dozens of CHP officers attended the afternoon hearing, met first outside Patino Hall of Justice by a trio of Sacramento mounted police, before filing into Sweet’s courtroom. In a corner of the courtroom, a clutch of Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies, all too familiar with loss, clustered at the entrance to Sweet’s chambers.
“This sentence is not going to be sufficient for you. It’s just not,” Sweet said. “The loss is irrevocable.”