Christina “Lete” Quintana (at left) in Sitka Superior Court in March 2018, with co-defendants Andrea”Josey” Avalos, Alesa Williams, and Cocoa Fudge (Daily Sitka Sentinel photo/James Poulson)

A New Mexico woman will spend 20 years in prison without parole, for pulling the trigger in a drug hit three years ago in Sitka.

In passing sentence, Superior Court Judge William Carey said the offense committed by Christina Quintana was the worst he had seen in a drug-related case, in his 40-year legal career.

In a negotiated agreement, the state dropped all charges against 35-year old Christina Quintana except one: Assault inflicting serious injury with a weapon.

Quintana and an accomplice, Andrea Avalos, were arrested by Sitka Police in March of 2018, following an incident in which Quintana first pistol-whipped a woman, and then shot her in both legs, in a drug deal gone sour. Police used a riot-control grenade to extract the pair from a yacht in Sitka’s harbor where they had been squatting.

Quintana and Avalos had flown to Sitka from New Mexico just two days prior to the assault. Quintana had three outstanding felony warrants in other states at the time.

Police characterized the pair as “enforcers” in the illegal drug trade — out of town muscle imported to intimidate local traffickers.

At least five other people were arrested in connection with the incident, and they, along with Quintana and Avalos, were all subsequently charged by the state, and indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges.

In imposing a 20-year sentence on Quintana on June 28, Superior Court Judge William Carey said he had seen nothing so callous in four decades as a defense attorney and judge.

“It went way beyond anything that we’re typically going to see in a drug case,” he said, “and for the collection of — as I understand it, this was done in furtherance of the collection of a drug debt.”

Twenty years is the maximum sentence for the charge — a so-called “worst offender” finding. The deal will keep Quintana behind bars for the full twenty years, with no chance at parole, serving both her state and federal sentences at the same time. She’ll also spend most of that time in isolation.

Citing her “long and complicated” criminal record going back to 2003, Judge Carey agreed with the attorneys for both the state and the defense, that there didn’t seem to be much of an alternative for Quintana, even for a 35-year old.

“I don’t know that there’s anything more that can deter her, other than keep her in prison for a substantial period of time,” said Judge Carey.

Quintana’s attorney, public defender Dina Kale, said that the 20-year flat sentence was the preferred choice for her client, since it meant that she would not have to serve state and federal sentences back-to-back. She also said that Quintana, who is serving time at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River, had held down a steady job during the covid year, and shown other signs of improving behavior.

Judge Carey was encouraged by that news, but it wouldn’t begin to offset Quintana’s crime.

“Hopefully she’ll be able to have some peace in her later years,” said Carey. “It’s a different question for those whom she’s affected by her conduct. I doubt that the victims are ever going to forget it, and the community of Sitka will not likely forget this whole series of events for some time to come.”

Carey agreed to strike some aggravating circumstances from the sentencing document, particularly references to the victim’s children, who were abducted by co-conspirators on the pretense of going to get ice cream, while their mother and her partner were terrorized.

“It’s fair to think that these children will be forever scarred by what happened here,” Carey said. “That’s just common sense.”

Several of Quintana’s co-conspirators are scheduled for sentencing in the near future.