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Vasquez sentenced to life for 2016 murder

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The 34-year-old set his then-girlfriend on fire at a Clear Creek County campsite

By Ian Neligh

A 34-year-old Arvada man was sentenced to life in prison without parole Wednesday for the murder of a mother of three while the couple and two of the children were camping in Clear Creek County.

John Anthony Vasquez was convicted last month of pouring gasoline on his girlfriend Christina Archuleta and setting her on fire at a remote campsite in the Arapaho National Forest in 2016.

“The events that took place in June of 2016 are beyond the pale,” said Chief Judge Mark Thompson during sentencing. “(It’s) one of the most cruel, heinous, inhumane and senseless acts this court has ever been exposed to. ...”

The life sentence includes an additional 21 years for a host of charges Vasquez was convicted of, including felony murder, first-degree murder, second-degree murder, child abuse causing serious bodily injury, arson and others stemming from the incident.

Grieving representatives from both families addressed the court before Thompson handed out his sentence.
Vasquez didn’t comment, and he showed little reaction to the court’s decision. 

“I’ve considered what was presented to me this morning …,” Thompson said. “This case has been a long and exhausting process for Christina’s family. I certainly recognize that. In some respects, while this sentencing hearing will bring some closure to the process … I understand that nothing that this court does can bring back Christina as a mother, as a sister, as a daughter.”

Archuleta was airlifted to the University of Colorado Hospital’s burn unit after a 911 call was made from the Barbour Forks area southwest of Idaho Springs. She had third- and fourth-degree burns on 60 percent of her upper body and died in the hospital weeks later as a result of a bacterial infection.

Archuleta's two young boys recounted during the trial that they saw the incident, called first responders and tried to help their mother. Thompson said he had a profound sense of compassion for the two children, the loss that they have sustained and the trauma that they’ve had to endure.

“Christina will certainly not be forgotten by her family or this court,” Thompson said. “Anyone walking down the street would know that to burn someone alive is probably the most horrific possible thing that you can do … and that in and of itself is one of the most significant aggravating factors that this court has considered in reaching its decisions today.”

The two children will remain in the custody of their father. 

“Shocking is that over 15,000 people a year are victims of domestic violence, and each year a couple dozen will die at the hand of a so-called ‘loved one,'” said Bruce Brown, 5th Judicial District Attorney, in a statement. “Christina, however, isn’t just a statistic. She was a loving mother and woman who leaves three children behind, and a family that will always remember the joy she brought to this world.”