BOZEMAN — The passenger in the car that struck and killed a 76-year-old Manhattan man in October 2019 on Stagecoach Trail has been sentenced to seven years in prison.
Daniel Sifuentes, 24, faced a maximum charge of 10 years. An emotional Judge Rienne McElyea read the verdict Monday afternoon.
The defense argued that Sifuentes was “100 percent responsible” for drinking with the driver of the vehicle that struck and killed Truman Emmelkamp but not with the situation after the crash.
Sifuentes and a Manhattan man faced charges after allegedly hitting Truman with his vehicle, then filing a false report to cover up the incident.
The reported driver, Michael Leo Moreno of Manhattan, 35, is charged with vehicular homicide, tampering with physical evidence, and failing to remain at the scene of an accident with a deceased person.
Bozeman City Police Deputy Chief Jim Veltkamp read an emotional letter from Emmelkamp’s wife, Vivian prior to sentencing.
Sifuentes had pleaded guilty of the charge of felony obstructing justice.
"I was scared for my kids. I was scared for my wife. I was scared that I wouldn't see them again and that is why I lied to police," Sifuentes said in court.
According to court documents, around 6:40 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, Gallatin County dispatch received a report of a suspicious vehicle in the 5000 block of Churchill Road.
The reporting party said the occupants of a blue Chevrolet Impala threw a case of Rainier beer out of the vehicle. The vehicle's windshield was also reportedly shattered.
Later, around 7 p.m., Moreno called 911, claiming he and his passenger, Daniel Sifuentes, were victims of a carjacking. Moreno reportedly said they had picked up a hitchhiker who held a gun to Moreno's head and stole the vehicle.
As law enforcement was interviewing Moreno about the alleged carjacking, deputies responding to a missing person report located a deceased man on the side of Stagecoach Trail Road, west of Heeb Road.
Court documents say deputies detained Moreno and Sifuentes for further questioning, given the circumstances. The two men reportedly confessed to striking the man, filing a false report, and getting rid of beer and marijuana that was in the vehicle.
Moreno allegedly also admitted that he knew he shouldn't have been driving given how much he had to drink. Court documents say deputies eventually found Moreno's vehicle, and it matched the description given in the suspicious vehicle report.
The victim's son spoke with MTN News, saying his father was a pillar in the Manhattan community and well-known in the area. He added his father was out taking a routine, daily walk near his home when this happened.
The son told MTN News he is disappointed in the sentencing; the family had requested the max sentence of 10 years.
Moreno does have a prior DUI conviction out of Belgrade, sentenced in Jan. 30, 2018. Moreno is expected to make an appearance in Gallatin District Court on Friday for a change of plea hearing.