Sierra sentenced to two years in prison for death of daughter in ATV DUI case

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Artemio Sierra was sentenced to two years in prison for negligent homicide stemming from the 2017 death of his daughter. 

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – Standing in front of a courtroom packed with supporters Wednesday, Artemio Sierra, 34, stared ahead at Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson and received a slightly mitigated sentence of two years in prison on his amended charge of negligent homicide. Upon release, Sierra will serve a standard probation term of three years on an amended charge of endangerment.

Several people spoke in favor of Sierra during the hearing and asked for a minimum sentence for a man who has to face an ultimate sentence of knowing his actions led to the death of his daughter.

Sierra previously pleaded guilty June 5 to negligent homicide – a Class-4 felony – and endangerment – a Class-6 felony.  He previously was charged with manslaughter, two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of aggravated DUI, and two counts of child abuse.

Sierra’s charges stem from an ill-fated ATV ride July 23, 2017, that ended with the death of his daughter, Ximena Sierra, 8, and severely injuring another, Ludwyka Sierra, then 9.

Ximena was riding on the back of a Honda 400 ATV with Ludwyka, while Artemio operated the vehicle while intoxicated. The Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Crime Lab in Tucson listed Artemio’s blood sample taken hours after the crash to have a blood/alcohol content at .09, which is just over the limit of .08 for a standard DUI charge.

According to his statements to police, Artemio said it was just before 7:30 p.m. and he was traveling home at about 40 mph when the ATV struck a berm, causing both girls to be thrown from the vehicle and knocked unconscious.

Ximena didn’t have a pulse when she was brought into the Emergency Room at Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center. ER staff managed to restart her heart prior to her being airlifted to Tucson, but she later died at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson on July 28, 2017, after being taken off life support due to no brain function.

Ludwyka responded well to treatment and was released from the hospital.

According to police reports, neither of the girls were wearing helmets as required by state law.    

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The girls were flown to a Tucson hospital on board a LifeNet helicopter like the one pictured here.

Instead of decades behind bars, Artemio faced a sentencing schedule that ranged from a mitigated minimum sentence of one year; a presumptive sentence of 2.5 years; and an aggravated maximum sentence of 3.75 years.

Graham County Deputy County Attorney Scott Adams prosecuted the case for the state and argued for the presumptive sentence of 2.5 years.

“This was a sad case for everyone involved,” Adams told the Gila Herald. “Ultimately, the defendant serving a term in the (Arizona) Department of Corrections sends the message to the community that it is not OK to do what Mr. Sierra did. The resolution ensured justice but provided a measure of compassion for a family that has been through a tragedy.”

After Artemio is released from prison, he will also have a probation tail on the endangerment charge, which will be standard probation for three years.

Artemio’s attorney, Corwin Townsend, of Phoenix, argued for mitigation, but in the end Judge Peterson gave weight not only to several mitigators but several aggravators as well – such as emotional harm, use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, breaking of parental trust, and the age of the victims – and followed a pre-sentence report recommendation from Graham County Probation and sentenced Sierra to the slightly mitigated term of two years.

Townsend is best known for representing the “Baseline Killer”, Mark Goudeau, who was convicted of 84 felonies involving 33 victims and was sentenced nine death sentences and more than 1,600 years in prison.

Ximena Sierra, 8, left, died at UMC on July 28, 2017, after being taken off life support. Her sister, Ludwyka, now 10, responded well to treatment was released from the hospital. Both girls were injured while riding on an ATV with their father, Artemio Sierra.