by Marissa Lorenz
Christopher Moffat has been sentenced to 55 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for the 2019 murder of Kremmling native Veronica Anne Sarinana.
On Tuesday, April 27, Moffat went before District Judge Diego Hunt in Jefferson County District Court after having come to a plea agreement wherein he pled guilty to murder in the second-degree and to tampering with a deceased human body, both felony charges.
The petition to accept the plea was filed with the Court on March 3 by Moffat’s attorney, Public Defender Elizabeth Upton. It was accompanied by filings from First Judicial District Deputy District Attorney Alex Boguniewicz, offering to drop charges of first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in exchange for the negotiated guilty plea.
According to the filings, Moffat was facing between 16 and 48 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines on the charge of second-degree murder and between 4 and 12 years in corrections and up to $750,000 on the charge of tampering with a deceased human body. They further noted an expectation that the Deputy DA would ask for between 40 and 55 years of incarceration.
Tuesday’s sentencing hearing saw Boguniewicz ask for the full 55 years, presenting the facts of the case and detailing an intimate relationship between Moffat and Sarinana in which Sarinana was the victim of repeated incidents of domestic violence, including two for which Moffat was arrested and charged in January and April of 2019.
Moffat was convicted of felony menacing in that second case. He was incarcerated in Arapahoe County Jail, and a mandatory protection order put in place. He was released just days before police responded to an anonymous call in which the caller (later determined to be Chris Moffat) claimed there was a dead body in a vehicle in front of the Arvada home of Frank “Kelly” Moffat, the defendant’s brother.
Veronica Sarinana was found in that car on June 19, 2019, surrounded by bags of trash, and dead from what would be determined to be manual strangulation.
Moffat made other efforts to implicate his brother in the crime, including sending texts from Sarinana’s phone after her death, leaving her purse at the home of his brother, and telling nearby church staff and a 911 operator that his brother had killed someone. He was found in Sarinana’s stolen car in Grand Junction later that same day.
Judge Hunt acknowledged having received numerous communications, many from residents of Kremmling, in support of strong sentencing as part of justice for Sarinana’s death. He invited victim impact statements to be presented during the proceedings, including personal statements given by Sarinana’s sister and cousin and statements read on behalf of Sarinana’s mother and the grandmother of Moffat’s juvenile daughter, all of whom have ties to Kremmling.
Family members described Veronica Sarinana as “[their] prayer,” “beautiful and loving”, “a great daughter, mother, sister, aunt, and cousin.”
Sarinana’s sister, Pam Miranda, expressed the many conflicting emotions that she is left with, such as fear, grief, loss, regret for all the things she can never share again with Veronica, and guilt at not always feeling as strong as she thinks she should for her own children and for Veronica’s two sons.
Sadie Sarinana, Veronica’s mother, relayed through a letter read to the Court the ongoing trauma and impacts on her and her family, including loss of their business/income and delayed choices for Veronica’s sons around their future.
All expressed their desire for the Court to impose the longest requested sentence.
“We have suffered great loss, and nothing can ever heal the hurt,” read Sadie Sarinana’s statement. “I pray that you sentence this murderer for the longest time possible.”
Attorney Upton took up the defense, recognizing that the Sarinana family had “suffered a profound loss, a loss that can never be filled, no matter the sentence of this court,” but arguing that Moffat’s longest previous incarceration had been the few months just before Sarinana’s death and that he had his own history of trauma.
Upton outlined a history with childhood sexual abuse by a family member and peers, parental abandonment, physical abuse, bullying, and a traumatic brain injury at age 13. She noted his drug addiction, his desire for treatment, and his remorse
for his crime.
“In working with Mr. Moffat,” Upton said of the man who was in court admitting to the murder of Veronica Sarinana, “I have seen an individual who is respectful, has always been kind, regrets the loss of his friend, and regrets the pain that he has caused this family.”
She requested the low end of the sentencing consideration before the court, 40 years, 75 percent of which Moffat would be required to serve, given the crime’s designation as a crime of violence, regardless of future opportunities of parole.
Finally, Moffat read a prepared statement, addressing the Court and the Sarinana family, and admitting to “causing the death of [his] best friend in a fit of jealousy,” the woman he called beautiful, smart, funny, trendy, and talented.
He, too, pointed to being under the influence at the time of the crime, saying, “There was something wrong with me. There was something wrong with my brain.” However, he made no other claim of personal responsibility.
Moffat ended his plea, addressing Veronica Sarinana’s religious family, and stating, “There are two things I must share: Forgiveness is like releasing a prisoner only to find out the prisoner is ourselves; and a heart full of hate has no room for love.
“I’m not saying I deserve your forgiveness. I’m saying you deserve it.”
In tears, Veronica’s mother stated that she forgives Moffat, but that, “unfortunately, he deliberately and viciously murdered [Veronica].” She then reiterated, “Your Honor, I pray that you sentence him to 55 years.”
District Judge Hunt heard Sadie Sarinana’s plea.
Hunt acknowledged the history presented by Moffat’s attorney, but also noted the “history of violence and threat” explained by Veronica Sarinana herself in the earlier case, including a threat by Moffat that he would “kill her and bury her in the mountains in a place she would never be found.”
The Judge reviewed again the facts of the case and found that it was “the evidence of the Court that Miss Sarinana was the victim of escalating domestic violence in this case, perpetrated by Mr. Moffat, who ultimately killed her. (…) He did so in a manner that was cold, callous, and showed an utter disregard for the life that he took.”
Hunt then sentenced Moffat to 40 years in the Department of Corrections for the charge of murder in the second-degree and a consecutive 15 years for the charge of tampering with a deceased human body, totalling a 55-year prison sentence.
Moffat was granted 635 days as time served, the length of his pre-sentencing confinement in Jefferson County Jail.
More time was requested to determine restitution. And the Judge reminded Moffat of his right to appeal the decision.
Judge Hunt concluded the hearing by addressing the Sarinana family. “I want to acknowledge your loss. I cannot fathom–in particular, Ms. Sadie Sarinana–the impact of this loss on you. But there’s no guilt in sadness and grieving. And I think, in remembering Miss [Veronica] Sarinana, you honor her.”
by Marissa Lorenz