A Granite City woman was sentenced to 22 years in prison in the stabbing murder of an acquaintance, as the victim’s mother forgave her.
Breanna Maldonado, 20, was convicted of first-degree murder on March 4 after a jury deliberated for four hours.
Madison County Circuit Judge Kyle Napp sentenced Maldonado Monday afternoon. She must serve 100 percent of her sentence. Prosecutors had asked for a 35-year sentence, though Maldonado was eligible for up to 60 years in prison.
“We obviously wanted a longer sentence, but I respect the judge’s decision,” said Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons.
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According to police, Maldonado was driving a 26-year-old male passenger to the hospital on Oct. 6, 2013, as Antonio Carlin and a female passenger rode in the car. They stopped in the parking lot of a Granite City QuikTrip at 1:30 a.m., and an argument began between Maldonado’s passengers and two people in another car: Kaitlin Juenger and Hugo Valenzuela.
The argument escalated into a fight, during which Carlin stabbed Valenzuela and Maldonado stabbed Juenger. When police arrived, nurses at the nearby Gateway Regional Medical Center were attempting to treat the victims.
Valenzuela survived his injuries. However, 19-year-old Juenger suffered a fatal stab wound to the chest and was pronounced dead at the scene. She was unarmed, according to police. Granite City police stopped Maldonado’s car a short distance from the scene and all four were taken into custody without incident. Police investigation later showed that most of the parties involved had links to rival gangs in the area.
“I think one of the most powerful moments of the sentencing (Monday) was the forgiveness offered to the defendant by Kaitlyn’s mom,” Gibbons said. “Really, that’s a testament to her strength and the strength and faith of this family, to say, ‘I forgive you.’ It’s pretty incredible.”
Gibbons was less optimistic about Maldonado’s violence, stating that she had been involved in more violent altercations while in jail and was glad she would spend decades off the streets. “I don’t know that we can ever expect anything different from her,” he said. “When we take a decisive action... of charging someone with first-degree murder instead of a lesser charge, it sends a message (to gangs) that we’re serious and we intend to hold you accountable.”
Carlin pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon, a Class 4 felony. His sentencing was postponed pending Maldonado’s trial and faces probation up to three years in prison.
Maldonado has remained in custody at Madison County Jail.