Dolores Delgado escaped the small town in New Mexico where she was sexually abused as a girl, her attorney said. Once in the Army, her horrors only continued.
“She was harassed and raped by a superior officer,” attorney Elizabeth Oyer told a Baltimore courtroom Friday.
Then the young woman met a handsome soldier; perhaps she had finally found her protector.
“She really fell in love with a monster,” U.S. District Judge George Russell III said.
On Friday, he sentenced Delgado to 17 years in federal prison for helping the soldier kill his wife years later in Anne Arundel County.
Delgado, 33, of Texas, had pleaded guilty to the federal crime of crossing state lines to commit domestic violence resulting in a death. She testified last month as a government witness in the case against the soldier, Sgt. Maliek Kearney, 37.
Kearney was accused of shooting his wife and staging her death to look like a sexual assault. Jurors found him guilty last month, and he could be sentenced to life in prison on Nov. 30.
The judge and attorneys spoke of Kearney’s deepening influence and control over Delgado nearly a decade before his wife was killed.
Police found Karlyn Ramirez, 24, shot to death in the bedroom of her Severn townhouse in August 2015. A solider at Fort Meade, she had married Kearney the month before her death. Officers found the couple’s infant daughter unharmed beside her body.
During the trial, Delgado described her long affair with Kearney, which continued after his marriage.
“Whenever he wanted a girlfriend on the side, he could have her,” the judge said Friday. “In some respects, she was horribly used in all this.”
Oyer said Kearney preyed on Delgado’s childhood trauma and insecurities.
“He had a very powerful hold over her,” Oyer told the judge. “She couldn’t say, ‘No.’”
Delgado testified to supplying Kearney with her car and gun, then burning his clothes and dumping the revolver off a fishing pier in Florida’s Banana River.
She told jurors she and Kearney went to elaborate lengths to plan his wife’s killing. She said she tracked her mileage to help Kearney determine how much gas he would need to drive from his home in South Carolina to Maryland. She bought two 5-gallon gas cans from Home Depot, she said, so he wouldn’t risk being seen at a gas station. Delgado said she lent him her Nissan Altima, which was less conspicuous than his Jaguar. She stayed in his apartment with his cellphone. She said she sent two text messages from his phone while he was gone to establish an alibi.
Still, Delgado told the jury that she thought Kearney would make up with his wife, not kill her.
She said she watched Netflix, went through Kearney’s cellphone and hardly slept while he was gone. The guilt ate at her.
Russell was firm.
“She could have stopped it,” the judge said. “She could have called the victim and text messaged the victim, and told them to get out — get the baby, and get out.”
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Before the judge handed down the sentence, Ramirez’s mother spoke of the anguish her family has suffered in the three years since her death.
“I take my grandbaby every year to Karlyn’s grave,” Susanna Ramirez said, sobbing. “She wants to know why mommy’s with Jesus. … I can’t explain to a 3-year-old that her dad killed her, and his girlfriend helped him.”
Delgado told the judge she was sorry.
Turn around, Russell ordered her; face the grieving family in the back.
“You look at them,” he said. “I want you to feel that pain. If you’re sincere about your apology, you look at them. You tell them.”
Delgado turned. Tears ran down her face. Haltingly, she began.
“I’m sorry ...”