Murder during vape robbery brings long sentence

Kenneth Gallegos, 17 at time of crime, could be paroled after 40 years


Kenneth Gallegos, 19, was sentenced June 2 to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 40 years for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Lloyd Chavez IV during a robbery involving vaping products that Chavez sold in Centennial.

In addition to the maximum sentence for first-degree felony murder, Gallegos, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to 16 years to be served concurrently for each of two other counts — aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. He was convicted of the counts by a 12-member jury in Arapahoe County on April 9. 

During the trial, the prosecution argued that Gallegos acted as the central player in a plot to organize a robbery outside of Chavez's home in east Centennial the night of May 8, 2019. Another teen has yet to be tried in the incident, while two others accepted plea bargains.

Before 18th Judicial District Judge Ben Leutwyler pronounced the sentences on June 2, he said, ”I am truly struck by the senseless decisions by four people on that day.” Leutwyler said he reviewed all the evidence thoroughly. He concluded Gallegos led the other three in a plan to rob Chavez and encouraged another boy to bring a gun.

“You didn’t pull the trigger but your culpability is right there with everyone else,” Leutwyler said.

Defense Counsel Mike Root appealed for a 30-year sentence and referred to a bill that will change sentencing guidelines, expected to be in place in September. Judge Leutwyler said it would be an unlawful act to follow sentence laws that do not yet exist, adding “I cannot do that and I will not.” Deputy District Attorney Gwenn Sandrock had anticipated Root’s request and stated sentencing should follow current law as well.

Before the sentencing, Ken Gallegos, the father of Kenneth Gallegos, addressed the Chavez family members in attendance. He expressed repeatedly his “sincere condolences” to the Chavez family and mentioned a few areas where he took issue with the legal process. 

Lloyd Chavez III recounted how the death of his son deconstructed and consumed his family with grief. He noted his son, who attended Cherokee Trail High School, was an accomplished rugby player and involved in community activities.

Chavez said, “The train has left the station,” and while nothing can be done to bring back his son, he urged that Gallegos be sentenced to the full extent of the law. 

Other Chavez family members spoke and submitted statements describing the daily sadness and isolation experienced since the loss; told about the sale of their home because they did not want to live there after the murder occurred; and presented a slide show chronicling a large lively family life before the murder, as well as somber memorial services that followed. 

Kenneth Gallegos, who had not spoken during the trial due to legal advice, asked to come to the lectern and was accompanied by Root. Gallegos noted he would follow Root’s advice to refrain from saying anything about what had happened or the trial.

Gallegos said his “outward appearance does not match” what he feels inside and told the Chavez family, “I do want to express how terribly sorry I am for the loss.”

In his remarks before sentencing, Leutwyler noted the book “Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” as a guiding reference throughout his life, noting lessons such as “play fair, don’t hurt people, say you are sorry, don’t take things that are not yours.” He said that if Gallegos had learned those lessons in kindergarten “we wouldn’t be here today.” 

He said both families lost a son, but the Gallegos family can still see and talk to their son. He told Gallegos “but for your actions Lloyd would be alive today.”  


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