A Detroit Lakes man has been sentenced to 34½ years in prison, the maximum amount, on a second-degree murder charge in the Jan. 26 shooting death of Travis Buckanaga.
Ronald Quiceno, 39, was sentenced Thursday to 415 months in prison.
The courtroom was filled with Buckanaga’s family and friends for the sentencing, and a few Quiceno supporters were there as well.
Quiceno shot Buckanaga five times after a fight at a party at the Kountry Manor Mobile Home Park north of Detroit Lakes.
The two men started to rap and a heated argument led to Buckanaga punching Quiceno in the face. Quiceno left the home, came back in and fired shots at Buckanaga. Barris Guy was also hit in the neck by at least one of the shots.
Quiceno was also sentenced to 60 months for felon in possession of a firearm, which he will serve concurrently with the murder term. That means the 60 months for the firearms violation will be served at the same time as the 415 months for the murder conviction.
He was sentenced to 36 months in prison for the second degree assault of Guy. That prison term will run consecutive to the murder sentence, which means he will serve the 36 months after the 415 for murder.
In August, a jury found Quiceno guilty of the three charges plus second degree murder without intent. He couldn’t be sentenced for two second degree murder charges though, so he was sentenced on three of the four counts he was convicted on.
The defense asked that Quiceno not be sentenced for the possession of the firearm first, but Borgen said that Quiceno “couldn’t have shot anyone without a firearm,” so she planned to sentence him for that first.
The state asked for Quiceno to get the maximum for the murder charge (415 months) and the minimum amount for the firearms possession charge (60 months).
Assistant State’s Attorney Noah Cashman argued that Quiceno should receive the highest sentencing for second degree murder because of his “really, really bad behavior” the night of Jan. 25 and morning of Jan. 26.
He said Quiceno’s behavior after the shooting – stashing the gun at someone’s house, throwing the holster out the window and lying to the police – was also bad and not one of someone who was acting in self-defense as Quiceno had claimed.
“We’re here for sentencing for justice,” he said, asking for “top of the box” in sentencing guidelines.
“This is much worse than your typical murder.”
He asked for a total of 451 months, or 37½ years, on the three counts.
The defense asked for the low end of the range in sentencing, asking for 331 months total, or 27½ years.
“Obviously Mr. Quiceno would like the sentencing to be as low as possible,” defense attorney Joe Parise said.
He said that Quiceno’s reaction was one of panic, and that all those present at the mobile home that night reacted the same after the shooting by running from law enforcement. Many of them had warrants out for their arrests and fled the scene as emergency crews arrived.
“It’s a sad, sad reality that bad stuff results” from the actions that night, he said. “Even the low end is a long, long time (in prison).”
Victim impact statements
Three Buckanaga family members read victim impact statements Thursday afternoon, all paying tribute to Travis Buckanaga, leaving the remainder of the family members in the audience crying.
Judge Lisa Borgen said that this is a time for the victim’s family to “tell us how you feel … Everyone else, please be respectful.”
She added that throughout the trial she never heard or saw any disrespectful actions by either side of the case and she appreciated that, given the emotional situation.
Buckanaga’s mother, Stacy Buckanaga, said that Travis was her only son and now he is gone. A couple months before he died, her only daughter died as well and now she is left with no children.
She said that Travis was only 23 and will never have the chance to see his little girl, Tiera, grow up. She said it’s hard to see her granddaughter because she sees her son in Tiera.
Travis’ cousin, Angela Bellanger, said he was sweet, caring, understanding and a carefree kid with a one-of-a-kind personality. She said he loved his daughter so much and was saving money to get an apartment of his own for him and his daughter.
His daughter turned 2 without her dad, she said, and he will never have the chance to see her off to school, see her get married and all the other milestones a parent gets to experience.
She said the day of his death she tried to convince Buckanaga to come with her and her family, but he insisted he needed to go. She said if she had known it would be the last time she would have seen him alive she would have made even more of an effort to get him to come with her.
“I will always remember his laugh, smile and big hugs,” she said.
Michael Buckanaga, said that he believes in the native culture and he has been “putting out tobacco since you took our gentle giant from us.”
He said he has never been knocked down from a punch like Quiceno said he was by Buckanaga that night in January, but “is it worth it to kill a man for a punch,” he questioned Quiceno.
He asked if it was worth it to be alone for the next decade.
“The old me would want revenge,” he said. “The new me puts out tobacco for you.”
He said he’s been through the prison system for decades himself and it’s a very lonely life. He told Quiceno to enjoy that lonely life without his family.
“Hate is not in our culture,” he said, which is why he said he will continue to put tobacco out for Quiceno’s family.
“You took his life but not our memories,” he said, and added that memories are all Quiceno will have of his children now.
Quiceno has four sons and one stepson.
Three people, including wife, mother and friend, wrote letters to the judge in his favor also, but they were not allowed to speak at the sentencing Thursday.
Just before Borgen handed down the sentence, Quiceno was given the opportunity to speak.
“There’s nothing I can say or do to ease the pain of the Buckanaga family,” he said.
Through tears, he said he never intended for the night to go that way and that he was happy knowing that his family knew the real him. He said he will continue to encourage others to stay away from gangs and drugs, even while he’s in prison.
“I am going to be lonely, and every day I have to deal with my kids’ broken hearts,” he said.
He will also think of Buckanaga’s daughter’s broken heart, he added.
“God bless everybody.”
Borgen said she was impressed with the impact statements given and that the Buckanaga family hasn’t been vengeful throughout the trial.
“It speaks pretty loudly for the family.”
She said it’s hard to judge a person from the snapshot of one night, because the night of the murder, everyone looked bad. But the fact is a young life was “snuffed out” and it’s a miracle Guy wasn’t killed as well.
“I don’t think Quiceno is evil to the core,” she said. “He made a bunch of bad choices that night and leading up to it.”
But, she added, he also made conscious choices, like going to get the gun, returning to the house and firing shots. She said she even thinks the jury could have found him guilty of first degree murder if he had been charged with that.
She apologized to the Buckanaga family for their loss and to the Quiceno family for the loss of a father for the children.
She said she sentenced Quiceno at the top end of the range set by the Department of Corrections because of Quiceno’s criminal history and because Buckanaga’s “type of death was horrific.”
Getting back evidence
Quiceno’s wife, Elizabeth, requested their children’s birth certificates and Social Security cards be returned so she can return to Canada, where she is from. The documents had been submitted as evidence in the case.
The prosecution argued that the documents, which were found in Quiceno’s vehicle in a lockbox the morning after the shooting, were an important part of evidence and that Elizabeth Quiceno could retain new documents if needed.
Borgen disagreed and said that it’s not an easy process to get new documents and that she would need the originals – not photocopies as the prosecution also suggested – to bring her children into Canada.
“This is no one’s fault but Mr. Quiceno’s, so I can’t punish his wife and kids,” she said.
She ruled to allow copies of the Social Security cards and birth certificates of the children only, not Quiceno’s, to be held as evidence and return the originals to Elizabeth Quiceno. She said that Quiceno must sign an affidavit stating that he won’t challenge the copies if he should appeal the case.
Quiceno also requested that the Xbox, laptop and external hard drive that were seized in the investigation but never admitted into evidence be returned to his wife. The judge granted the request.
Quiceno also asked that his wife’s cell phone be returned to her, but the judge denied that request because it is part of evidence and not essential to get back like the documents.
After the sentencing, the Buckanaga family filed out of the courthouse, stopping to hug each other along the way.
Once outside, the family and friends held a drum circle on the courthouse steps, which could be heard for blocks.
Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.