LAS VEGAS — A 20-year-old Utah woman was sentenced Thursday to 47 years to life in prison in a brutal knife attack that killed one little girl and left another paralyzed outside a Nevada casino in 2003.
Monique Maestas read a letter of apology for "lives lost and changed" by the stabbings that killed 3-year-old Kristyanna Cowan and severed the spine of Cowan's 10-year-old sister, Brittney Bergeron.
Maestas' brother, Beau Maestas, 23, said nothing before Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley scheduled him to die by lethal injection and tacked on a sentence of up to 75 years in prison.
"This case has to be one of the most horrendous I have ever been involved with," Mosley said. "It is a tragedy all the way around ... brought on by this scourge in our community, narcotics."
A jury decided in August for the death penalty for Beau Maestas, who previously pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Thursday's additional sentences were for his guilty pleas to attempted murder with a weapon, burglary with a weapon and conspiracy.
The judge scheduled Beau Maestas to die the week of Dec. 11-17, but that date will be pushed back years while the death sentence is automatically appealed.
Monique Maestas, who pleaded guilty to the same charges, was not eligible for the death penalty because she was 16 at the time of the attack. Her brother was 19.
Mosley noted that Monique Maestas could apply for parole when she is 63.
Monique Maestas avoided trial by pleading guilty the same day the jury returned the death penalty verdict against her brother. Her plea spared Brittney Bergeron from having to testify about the bloody January 2003 attack, which happened in a trailer parked outside a casino in Mesquite.
It also prevented Monique Maestas' lawyers from presenting what public defender Alzora Jackson said was evidence of years of sex abuse during an extraordinarily troubled upbringing.
Monique Maestas directed her written comments Thursday toward Brittney Bergeron, who was not in court. Now 14 and living with a foster mother, Brittney is a high school student involved in wheelchair tennis.
"I feel in my heart your future will be better, in spite of your disability," Monique Maestas said.
As Beau and Monique Maestas were led from the courtroom, Monique Maestas blew a kiss to her oldest sister, Misty Maestas, 26, who sobbed quietly as she sat alone and watched the sentencings. Misty Maestas said outside court that she also was abused as a child.
Now married and caring for her husband's two children in Clearfield, Utah, Misty Maestas testified during her brother's penalty hearing that the Maestas children were products of a drug-dealing mother and a twice convicted killer who spent almost all of his adult life in Utah prisons.
"To me, the whole thing is, if they hadn't been on drugs this wouldn't have happened," Misty Maestas said.
Authorities said Beau and Monique Maestas forced their way into the trailer and attacked the girls in retaliation for Bergeron and Schmidt selling them salt in place of methamphetamine.
The attack bloody attack and Brittney Bergeron's plight mortified a region appalled by allegations that the little girls had been left alone while their drug-addicted mother, Tamara Bergeron, and her then-boyfriend, Robert Schmidt, gambled in the casino.
The case spawned criminal charges against the mother and boyfriend, who now are married. They denied the drug sale allegations, but were sentenced to prison last year for leaving the two girls alone in the trailer. The state has tried unsuccessfully to sever the mother's parental rights.