PASCO - One "quick vote" was all it took Tuesday for a Franklin County jury to confirm that DeLonde Pleasant was deliberately cruel when he pummeled and kicked his girlfriend to death as their young child slept in another room.
Jurors charged with determining if there were aggravating factors in the 2002 fatal beating of Juanita Montelongo deliberated for less than 20 minutes.
"We just kind of did a quick vote to see how everybody felt and where everybody was at," said a female juror, who wished to remain anonymous. The group was considering going to lunch and was startled to realize there were no dissenting votes and no questions.
"We were just all very confident in our answers," she said.
So at noon, they rang the bell to announce their decision was made and 25 minutes later, once everyone was back in the courtroom, handed over the special verdicts that clear the way for Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell to return Pleasant to prison.
Pleasant, 32, had hoped to become a free man after serving nine years behind bars -- six months more than the top of the normal range for first-degree manslaughter. He did not react as the verdicts were read.
But tears ran down the faces of the almost 20 Montelongo family members and their friends in court as they gasped at the verdicts.
Angel Montelongo, the older sister of the 20-year-old victim, said it means, "A little sense of relief. A little joyful. A little more sense of peace for Juanita. Obviously a little bit of closure. Though it doesn't bring her back ... he's not going to get out any time soon."
A date for Pleasant's resentencing has not been set.
Deputy Prosecutor Frank Jenny said he will ask the judge to reimpose the original sentence of 25 1/2 years, which means Pleasant could spend another 16 1/2 years in jail.
Juanita Montelongo's relatives would prefer that the lengthy sentence start anew.
"I want to make sure that I talk to him and make sure he knows he hurt my family," said Angel Montelongo, who plans to address Pleasant and the court at sentencing. Her sister's savage death left two boys motherless. "I hope (Pleasant) changes and maybe one day fesses up and says, 'Sorry.' ... At the end of the day, he needs to be a man about it, and one day when his son comes to him and asks, 'Why did you kill my mother?' " he can answer.
"This is the justice that we're looking for," she added, agreeing with family that their late father, Abe, now can rest in peace. Abe Montelongo died in his sleep in January 2004 and is buried just two rows from his daughter at Desert Lawn Memorial Park in Kennewick.
Juanita Montelongo and Pleasant had been together for at least three years and had a 2-year-old son who is being raised by his mother's Tri-City relatives.
Montelongo also had a 4-year-old son, who lives with his father in Spokane.
On March 3, 2002, Pleasant returned home after a night of drinking and gambling. He claims Montelongo accused him of being out with another woman and wouldn't give him a chance to explain, so he "just lost it" and started to hit her. He stopped when she was unresponsive.
He said he tried to resuscitate her and splashed water on her face, then sought help from his mother and aunt, who called 911 just after 6 a.m. Montelongo was pronounced dead an hour later at Kennewick General Hospital.
The forensic pathologist testified Montelongo died from severe head injuries, had about 100 blows all over her body including four distinctive boot prints and a fresh bite mark.
Pleasant entered an Alford plea in 2003 to the first-degree manslaughter and received the lengthy prison term. But in early 2009, an appellate court said it should be up to a jury, not a judge, to decide if there were aggravating factors to warrant his lengthy sentence.
Jurors had to answer three different special verdicts:
-- Did the defendant's conduct during the crime manifest deliberate cruelty?
-- Was the crime an aggravated domestic violence offense involving deliberate cruelty?
-- Was the crime an aggravated domestic violence offense committed within sight or sound of the victim's child?
In closing arguments Tuesday, Jenny told the jury Pleasant's conduct that night was more than just reckless.
" ... he certainly had the ability to inflict pain on someone and assault someone with the purpose of inflicting pain," Jenny said. "She felt every one of those stomps, every one of those kicks, every one of those bites, every one of those punches. ... She was not going to surrender to death with her 2-year-old child there in the next room."
And through it all, Pleasant was "in complete control of the situation," he added. "Regardless of any mental problems, regardless of any alcohol consumption, he had the ability to hold her prisoner."
Defense lawyer Karla Kane had argued that prosecutors had "definitely not met their burden."
She said there's no evidence the toddler ever woke up and heard what was happening.
A defense psychologist had testified that he diagnosed Pleasant with alcohol dependence, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and stress. He said Pleasant still was very traumatized from accidentally shooting his sister to death when he was 14.
Jenny responded that regardless of Pleasant's level of culpability for his sister's death, having had that experience should have made him "less inclined to cause the death of another person."
As Montelongo's loved ones hugged each other after the verdict, cousin Jesse Retana said the jury's decision means a lot.
"I can actually see closure because when they (the Court of Appeals) brought it back up, it brought back all the nightmares again," he said. "As far as domestic violence, it will send a message to some but not to all."
One female juror walking out to her car approached Angel Montelongo and gave her a hug.
"I feel for the family that they had to go through this whole thing again, and they will be in my thoughts and prayers," the woman told the Herald. "I have a 20-year-old daughter at home. It was hard (to hear the evidence and view the pictures). It was very, very, very difficult. I'm glad I have a strong faith."