Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Donald Montanez and the Death of Glen Rich

Trial & Verdict

Another Donald Montanez <br /> booking photo.
Another Donald Montanez
booking photo.
Because Donald Montanez' defense team believed their client acted in self-defense and the defense of his employees, they moved to have the charges kicked citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. The controversial law says that a person has no duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense. In 2009, an immunity hearing was held to determine whether Montanez would be held immune from the charges for "Stand Your Ground" reasons. Judge Robert Foster ruled against the defendant, citing the fact that the fatal shot was fired through the passenger side window -- thus the danger to Montanez had passed. Defense attorneys appealed the ruling, but were again denied. Thus, six years after the incident, Donald Montanez would be brought to trial in front of a jury.

On February 21, 2012, a six-person jury began hearing testimony in the case against Donald Montanez. The prosecution contended that towing the Sebring was an illegal act because the car was parked on a public right-of-way -- not in front of a driveway, where parking was not permitted. With those facts, the State maintained that it was Glen Rich who acted properly in taking back his illegally-towed car in the face of a gun-wielding tow truck operator.

Montanez' attorneys painted an entirely different picture of what happened that night -- if the State said Rich defended himself after an illegal tow, the defense maintained that Rich acted as if taking his car back was more important than the welfare of the people standing in front of him. Instead of waiting for police and then taking Montanez to civil court, Rich hit Cory Crites with his car and then revved toward Donald Montanez and Lorraine Marie Whitehead. Defense attorneys said their client was in "imminent danger", thus prompting Montanez to fire in self-defense.

On March 1, 2012, after 10 hours of deliberation, the 4-woman, 2-man jury reached its decision. They found Donald Montanez had not committed 2nd Degree murder (instead convicting him of manslaughter on the top count), but was guilty of 3rd Degree felony murder (a killing done in the midst of grand theft auto). They also convicted Montanez on lesser counts of Aggravated Assault, Improper Exhibition of a Weapon, and Shooting into a Vehicle.

Montanez showed no emotion as the verdict was read or as the handcuffs were put on, but his friend and employee Lorraine Marie Whitehead wept uncontrollably. Rich's father Bennie Rich said he was gratified to hear the click of the handcuffs shackling Donald: "I've been waiting six years for this," he told reporters. Rich's mother Eva Stephens said she had forgiven Montanez, and hoped he would become a better person and "love people like I do."

Judge William Fuente has broad discretion in sentencing on the various counts, but Montanez faces a mandatory sentence of more than 30 years -- and could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Sentencing has been set for May 4, 2012.

Although defense attorneys deemed the verdict "mind-boggling," they remained upbeat about their client's prospects. They maintain that Judge Fuente will have to dismiss the manslaughter conviction in order to sentence Montanez on the 3rd Degree murder charge (since he can't be sentenced on two murder counts for one murder) -- and that the 3rd Degree murder count is the most susceptible to overturning on appeal. Of course, the appeals process will take months or years to unfold, so it's just a matter of how long -- not whether or not -- Donald Montanez spends time in prison.

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