Jodi Pogline has more questions than answers about how her son died, but she doesn't have to speculate about why.
"He was so upset about the meth problem in Craig," Jodi said. "He set out to collect evidence on who was doing it and where."
James Pogline, 32, was shot Oct. 22, 2004, in a Timberglen apartment. He died the next day. Hugo Silva-Larios, now 17, was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the case. He signed a plea agreement in September and pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
On Wednesday, he was sentenced to five years in prison, one year short of the maximum of six years the plea agreement stipulated, as well as recommended by the probation department. He was given credit for the 368 days he has spent in the Moffat County Jail.
Silva-Larios will be eligible for parole in three years, but because of his status as an illegal immigrant, he will not be eligible for probation.
After he has served his time, he will be deported to Mexico. Silva-Larios arrived in the United States legally nearly two years ago to live with his father. His visa since has expired.
Fourteenth Judicial District Judge Michael O'Hara said there are circumstances that could have led him to impose a lesser sentence -- Silva-Larios' age of 16 at the time of the shooting, his lack of a criminal history and claims that the shooting was in self-defense. But the nature of the crime outweighed those factors, he said.
"Even if Mr. Pogline was engaged in illegal activity, that was not a mitigating factor," O'Hara said. "None of us has the right to kill another person. None of us has the right to recklessly fire a gun, and I believe that's the bottom line here."
Oct. 22, 2004
Defense attorney Kristopher Ham-mond said the lack of a trial meant that many of the factors that drove Silva-Larios to shoot Pogline were never exposed.
He said witnesses reported that Pogline had been on a three-day methamphetamine "binge," which caused a heightened paranoia. Pogline purchased a .44-caliber revolver the day before the shooting.
Jodi Pogline said her son detested drugs and had dedicated his life to eradicating meth use in Craig. "He was going to blow this town's drug ring wide open. He wanted to clean this town up," she said.
A blood test and urine analysis performed during Pogline's autopsy showed there was meth in his system at the time of his death. "I don't know about that, and I don't care," Jodi said. "He did not use drugs. He hated drugs."
Jodi said James associated with drug users in an attempt to gain information, and she thinks his death was the result of his plan to release that information.
Three days after he told her he had collected enough evidence and wanted to print it from her computer, he was killed, Jodi said.
The evidence Pogline claimed to have has disappeared, she said. All that remains are his journals, most of which are still in the district attorney's custody. Jodi said her son feared for his life, and she thinks his death was connected to the evidence he was collecting.
Hammond said Pogline's ex-girlfriend solicited the help of three people to accompany her to an apartment Pogline was in. The group included Silva-Larios, Silva-Larios' cousin and another woman.
All Silva-Larios knew about Pogline before going to the apartment was what his cousin told him, Hammond said. And all Silva-Larios' cousin said was, "James Pogline is dangerous."
Knowing that James wouldn't let his ex-girlfriend in, the group covered the peephole in the door and pretended that only one person was at the door, prosecutor Kerry St. James said. There were two women inside the apartment with James, including his ex-wife, Jamie. One of the women let the group into the apartment.
St. James said that after the group was inside, James repeatedly and vehemently asked the group to leave.
According to testimony, Silva-Larios' cousin and James' ex-girlfriend went into the living area where James, his ex-wife and another woman were. Silva-Larios waited in a hallway just inside the front door.
James and his ex-girlfriend began arguing about a cell phone when Silva-Larios' cousin hit James on the head with a beer bottle, shattering it and cutting James' forehead, according to testimony.
Jamie -- James' ex-wife -- then jumped between the two men. Hammond said James responded by getting a bag in which his gun was stored. James started to put on gloves from the bag, Hammond said.
"People who know James Pogline know that when he puts his gloves on, something bad is going to happen," Hammond said.
James' father, John, said it doesn't make sense that James felt threatened enough to get the weapon but took the time to put on gloves before grabbing it.
Hammond said when James started putting on the gloves, three of the four in Silva-Larios' group ran out of the apartment. But Silva-Larios stayed in the hallway, and when James peeked around the corner and looked in the hall, Silva-Larios shot him in the head.
"Hugo describes James Pog-line as peaking around the corner with a gun and he was frightened. He was afraid he was going to get shot," Hammond said.
Hammond said the autopsy indicates James was shot from a low position -- that Silva-Larios literally "shot from the hip."
"He didn't aim," Hammond said.
Jodi thinks differently. She thinks Silva-Larios had his gun ready and was ready to shoot as soon as he saw James. She said James waited around the corner long enough for the blood from his head wound to run down the wall. She said her son was peaking around the corner, checking to see whether the four visitors had left when Silva-Larios shot him.
After the shooting, Jamie fled the apartment. The other woman called 911.
Police found James' gun. It was cocked and loaded. They also found speed loaders, ammunition, white powder and a scale commonly used to weigh methamphetamine in James' bag.
Several of James' relatives spoke Wednesday, pleading for Silva-Larios to be sentenced to the maximum time allowed. "He has brought a lifetime of devastation to our family with his ruthless killing of our grandson," Joyce LeBlanc said.
Pogline's sister, Coreen Le--Blanc, read a letter from Jamie, who discussed the difficulty of explaining the death to James' 10-year-old stepson and 5-year-old daughter. "To see the pain in their eyes was unbearable," she wrote.
Jodi said Silva-Larios showed no remorse throughout the proceeding.
"I watched him laugh with his attorney as he celebrated getting away with murder," she said. "Mr. Silva-Larios has taken away my inheritance and my treasure from the Lord. He has violated our family and created an irretrievable loss."
Pogline served in the Army for four years. He fought in Desert Storm.
John Pogline thinks Silva-Larios wasn't sorry about James' death, he was just sorry he got caught.
Hammond said that's not the case. "The victim's family believes Hugo has no remorse," he said. "It's clear the probation department, in interviewing Hugo, came to the conclusion that Mr. Silva-Larios is very remorseful for what he did. He feels terrible."
Silva-Larios spoke -- with assistance from an interpreter -- to the Pogline family when given the opportunity to speak on his own behalf. For the first time in a year, his eyes misted over as he started to speak. "I am really, really sorry about this," he said. "I never had the intention of doing this. It was just an accident. I would never have thought of even doing this and taking someone's life.
"The only person who will judge me is God, and I will have to pay in front of him. God knows my heart and that I am not a bad person."
St. James said during his closing argument that his gut feeling was that Silva-Larios was telling the truth, but that didn't change the fact that he should have been punished for his crime.
He said James Pogline had the right to pull a gun. "He wanted to defend himself."