As 15-year-old Shiloh Edsitty nervously explained to a judge Wednesday the impact James Valdez had on his life, a sob came from Valdez’s sisters seated in the courtroom.
“This is hard for me too,” Shiloh said.
Valdez was convicted of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon in March for fatally stabbing Shiloh’s mother, 31-year-old Teresa Tilden. A drunken argument between the couple in November 2004 preceded the slaying.
The jury also found Valdez guilty of attempted murder for stabbing Shiloh, then age 12.
“I will forgive him, but not now; I can’t,” Shiloh said.
District Judge Joseph Bonaventure sentenced Valdez to two life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murder and an additional 16 to 40 years for the attempted murder, following the recommendation of prosecutors and the department of parole and probation.
“Living in a cell for his whole life is enough for me,” Shiloh said after the sentencing.
Valdez did not speak on his own behalf during the sentencing. And members of his family, who previously said he was acting in self defense that night, wouldn’t comment afterward.
Valdez’s attorney, Michael Cristalli, said the added sentence for the attempted murder was unnecessary.
“He’s not going to get out of prison,” Cristalli said.
He maintained the slaying was a crime of impulse and that the verdict will be appealed.
One of the grounds for appeal is that the jury decided a penalty prior to a penalty hearing, during which evidence is presented to determine the appropriate punishment for the conviction.
Bonaventure did not allow the jury to announce that penalty. On the day the penalty hearing was to begin, defense attorneys struck a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty, in which Valdez would receive two consecutive life sentences for the murder conviction.
Several jurors said after trial they planned to impose a life sentence with the chance of parole after 40 years.
The defense had argued that, at the urging of Tilden, Shiloh stabbed Valdez in the hand, provoking a drunken Valdez into a murderous rage.
However, Shiloh, the only other witness to his mother’s murder, has said neither he nor his mom held a knife that night.
Shiloh’s guardian, Vivian Powell, recalled for Bonaventure the boy’s long physical and mental recovery after the 2004 stabbing.
Shiloh, who escaped the crime scene with a knife stuck in his chest, spent three weeks in the hospital.
In the hospital, Shiloh made jokes, as usual, Powell said. When he was released, Shiloh moved to New York with Powell, who had received permanent guardianship over him.
While there, “A Current Affair” did an interview with him and Powell said she remembered thinking, “It was almost as if nothing had happened.”
Then, almost a year after the murder, Shiloh became depressed, she said.
“All along he was having awful, awful nightmares and it got to a point where he wasn’t sleeping,” she said.
He failed eighth grade.
Doctors diagnosed him with post traumatic stress disorder.
“Every day I was just glad he was alive, because he didn’t want to live,” Powell said.
He questioned why God would take his mother but not him. “Answers I couldn’t give him,” she said.
“He’s got scars all over his body. Just a constant reminder this is what happened,” she said.
The trial kept being delayed, along with the hypnosis therapy his doctor had recommended for Shiloh’s recovery, Powell said.
Nevada law has restrictions on witnesses who undergo hypnosis, so attorneys agreed to use a video recording of Shiloh’s testimony in August for the March trial so that Shiloh could begin his therapy.
Since then, “I have noticed him cracking jokes about the stupidest things,” Powell said.
But he still can’t sleep.
“I still don’t see the kind of person he was,” she said.
Shiloh told the judge after the incident he had trouble controlling his anger, but he’s learning.
“My mom didn’t deserve this. She wasn’t the best mom, but she was my mom and I always loved her,” he said.
During the trial, it was revealed that Tilden had a drinking problem and beat her son. When she began dating Valdez, the beatings decreased, Shiloh had said.
When he was 5 months old, Tilden, a former student of Powell’s, asked Powell to take care of him for a few weeks.
“That turned out to be five years,” Powell said.
But he kept in contact with his mother and, in the fourth grade, Shiloh decided he wanted to live with his mother so he could get to know her, Powell said.
A month before the murder, Powell asked him if he wanted to stay with her family again, but he reaffirmed his desire to live with Tilden.
“His love for his mother was intact and that’s who he wanted to be with,” Powell said.
She said Valdez was actually better to Shiloh than Tilden’s ex-husband and previous boyfriends.
“Our hearts ache for them and what they’re going through,” she said of the Valdez family. “We do hope from this day forward, healing can occur.”