Spain pleaded guilty September to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter with a three-year gun specification. The remainder of the charges, which were allied offenses, were merged.
Spain faced a maximum of 14 years in prison — a mandatory three years for using a gun in the offense and up to 11 years for involuntary manslaughter.
Judge Greg Howard gave Spain nearly the maximum, imposing a mandatory three years for the gun specification, 10 years for involuntary manslaughter for a total of 13 years in prison. He was given credit for 422 days served in the county jail, awaiting litigation.
The courtroom was packed, with the mother of the defendant and victim sitting a row apart.
Stephanie Garcia-Tovar, Sydney’s mom, wiped away tears and clutched her statement, waiting to speak. She wore shoes decorated with a butterfly and wings stating, “Long live Syd.”
Garcia-Tovar told the judge‚ ”Sydney was special; we knew that from the beginning she had plans to do something incredible with her life. She will never get that chance.”
She said it has been five years, three months and 18 days since “he (Spain) took my daughter’s life. He robbed me of my family. Sydney is gone and my other children have been permanently altered by the grief and pain.”
Garcia-Tovar said Spain knew right from wrong and he chose to pull the trigger regardless, adding “he did not think about the consequences of his actions.”
In asking the judge to impose the maximum sentence, Garcia-Tovar said, “try to put yourself in my shoes for one moment. What if it was your daughter. She was a victim of mindless gun violence.”
According to prosecutors and the defense attorney, the fatal shooting was part of a drug deal and robbery plot.
Sydney Garcia-Tovar and three others drove to the area for a drug deal with the back seat passengers believing it would be a robbery of the people to whom drugs were being sold. Prosecutor Brad Burress said one back seat passenger was carrying a gun that was inoperable.
Spain, his older brother and a co-defendant approached the vehicle with fake money to make the purchase. There were words exchanged, and Spain and the co-defendant opened fire on the car.
Garcia-Tovar was driving away when she was hit in the head with a round fired by Spain’s 9mm firearm.
Defense attorney Scott Rubenstein said in a sentencing memorandum that outlined what he called a “standoff, that one group of teens was looking to buy marijuana with counterfeit money and another was driving to the meetup with the intent to rob the buyers. Teens in both groups were armed.
Both Rubenstein and Burress said Sydney Garcia-Tovar was the least culpable person in the violent, tragic event. She reluctantly agreed to drive in exchange for gas money. She did not have a gun or drugs.
Spain addressed the judge and Sydney’s family for sentencing, saying “I just want to say I am sorry to the court and to the Garcia family. This was not supposed to happen.”
Spain’s mother, who did not state her name, read from her cell phone saying, “I am so sorry this happened, Jordan and Sydney were very young at the time. I love my son Jordan more than ever.”
She asked the judge to have “mercy and grace on my son.”
Howard pointed to a presentence investigation that said after the fatal shooting, Spain was arrested in 2016 for possessing a gun, and when he was arrested for this homicide he was in possession of a gun.
The judge also said had Spain gone to the police after the shooting and confessed, things might have gone differently. But that is not what he did. The Fairfield Twp. Police Dep. spent years unraveling what happened and gathering evidence for an arrest.
“I don’t understand young people and guns. We see it more and more. They keep getting younger and younger. Without those guns this tragedy probably does not occur.”
While the judge said he is mindful Spain was only 14 at the time of the shooting, “clearly he has not learned his lesson and has little concern for the dangers of being armed with a weapon despite what happened on July 23, 2018.”
Howard said Spain’s actions were not that of a child.
“I don’t find that his defendant has any genuine remorse over what happened,” Howard said.
Co-defendant Markeylnd Townsend, 24, was arrested two weeks after the homicide on an unrelated aggravated robbery charge in Hamilton and was sentenced in April 2019 to three years in prison.
While in prison, Townsend was indicted in April 2021 for murder with a gun specification and felonious assault. He too is accused of firing a weapon into a car full of people driven by Garcia-Tovar. He is being held on a $500,000 bond.
On Oct. 4, Townsend pleaded to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, a third-degree felony, with a one-year gun specification. He faces a maximum of four years in prison.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 15.