Family and friends of Fedonta “JB” White wept Tuesday in state District Court when Judge T. Glenn Ellington read the verdict against 18-year-old Estevan Montoya in the 2020 shooting death of the standout high school athlete.

Guilty of first-degree murder and other counts.

Montoya appeared unmoved, as he had throughout the two-week trial. Santa Fe jurors deliberated for about five hours spread over two days before their decision was announced.

“I’m just very, very grateful for just final justice and very happy the truth came out,” said White’s grandmother, Jude Voss, who had raised White. “I knew my son wasn’t an aggressive, mean person.

“I had to live the last year and a half just worried that we weren’t going to get justice,” Voss added, her voice breaking.

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Jude Voss, the grandmother of Fedonta ‘JB’ White and who raised him, speaks to reporters after Estevan Montoya’s trial concluded Tuesday. ‘I’m just very, very grateful for just final justice and very happy the truth came out,’ Voss said.

“I do feel like justice was served, but of course no amount of justice can bring June Bug back,” said White’s sister, Chantel Esquibel, using the family’s nickname for White, a Santa Fe High School basketball star who had graduated a year early.

He was planning to attend the University of New Mexico and join the Lobos men’s basketball team in the fall of 2020.

Montoya, then 16, shot White, 18, at a late-night house party in Chupadero in August 2020 in front of numerous witnesses, including more than a dozen young people who took the stand during his trial to testify about what they’d seen.

Prosecutors said Montoya — a member of a group called the South Side Goons — went to the party armed and lured White into a fistfight before shooting him point blank and running away.

Montoya took the stand Monday, saying he shot White in self-defense after he and White exchanged words and then White came at him, trying to throw punches.

But Ellington determined there wasn’t enough evidence of self-defense presented at the trial to give the jury the option of finding Montoya had committed justifiable homicide in self-defense.

Instead, the judge told jurors they had the option of finding Montoya guilty or not guilty of first-degree murder — based either on the theory of premeditated murder or depraved-mind murder — or a lesser offense of second-degree murder.

The jury agreed unanimously to convict Montoya of first-degree murder.

Montoya’s defense attorney, Dan Marlowe, did not respond to a call seeking comment after the verdict was read.

A juror who asked that his name not be published said individual jurors were not asked to specify whether they were convicting Montoya of willful and deliberate murder or depraved-mind murder — a charge that accuses a defendant of acting with utter disregard for human life.

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Estevan Montoya leaves District Court on Tuesday after being convicted of the murder of Fedonta 'JB' White. Montoya faces a life sentence of as much as 30 years for the murder charge. He is not eligible for life without parole because he was 16 years old at the time of the killing.

The jurors also convicted Montoya of tampering with evidence, unlawful carrying of a handgun and negligent use of a deadly weapon, based on allegations he disposed of the murder weapon — which was never found — and the clothing he wore the night of the shooting.

A jury made up of eight men and four women received the case around 4 p.m. Monday and deliberated for about an hour before adjourning and returning Tuesday morning. They considered the case four more hours before reaching a verdict.



Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett Macias — who prosecuted the case alongside Chief Deputy District Attorney Blake Nichols — said Tuesday she was surprised the deliberations were “so short.”

“They were fast, which means the jury was pretty decisive,” she said.

The juror who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the decision the panel reached was difficult but not contentious.

He said several jurors, including him, were initially “on the fence” about whether to find Montoya guilty of first- or second-second degree murder, in part due to his age. After methodically considering the evidence during a “respectful” discussion, he added, they agreed first-degree murder was appropriate.

The man said he personally found Montoya guilty on the theory of depraved-mind murder based in part on evidence Montoya had fired a second shot in the direction of a house where dozens of teenagers were gathered as he was running away from the scene.

“The fact that he appeared to have shot back at the house with disregard for the fact that a lot of people were out there at the time, that any one of them could have been hurt or killed at the time, didn’t seem just negligent and reckless,” he said. “That was a willful decision, when you are already fleeing somebody, to fire at them again.

“I was also bothered by the fact that throughout the entire trial, he expressed no remorse whatsoever for his actions,” the juror said.

“I can’t say to what extent that bothered other jurors, but that bothered me,” the juror added. “He had an opportunity to express remorse when he was on the stand, and he didn’t take it. Maybe that would have helped him — maybe.”

Montoya’s conviction on the murder charge exposes him to a possible sentence of life in prison — defined in New Mexico as 30 years. The additional tampering and gun charges could add up to four more years.

His sentencing hearing is scheduled next month.

Because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime, he can’t be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

The potential consequences for Montoya would have been vastly different if he had been convicted of second-degree murder, due to laws governing the adjudication of juvenile offenders.

Because he was between the ages of 15 and 17 at the time of the crime and was convicted of first-degree murder, he is now classified as a serious youthful offender and does not have the right to an amenability hearing to determine whether he would respond well to treatment. He can be sentenced as an adult.

Had he been convicted of second-degree murder, Montoya would have been classified as a youthful offender — defined as someone between the ages of 14 and 18 who commits crimes up to and including second-degree murder, as well as those 14 and younger who are convicted of first-degree-murder.

He would have been entitled to an amenability hearing to determine if he should be sentenced as a child or adult.

Had it been determined at the hearing he should be sentenced as a child, the District Attorney’s Office confirmed Tuesday, Montoya could not have been incarcerated past his 21st birthday.

White’s sister said Tuesday the family was happy Montoya will be going to prison, and “hopefully this will make him become a better person.”

The juror who spoke about the proceedings said he, too, hoped Montoya might grow and change from the experience.

“I hope he is somebody with a heart and that someday when he’s free again, he’ll have an opportunity to take a better path for himself,” the man said.

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