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A man who cut short the life of a 21-year-old college student pleaded no contest Wednesday to drunken driving and vehicular homicide in a fatal crash last year in Northeast Albuquerque.
Matthew Shetima-Joe, 23, faces up to eight years in prison for his role in the high-speed crash that killed Victor Gabriel Sandoval on June 3. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
Police said Shetima-Joe was driving more than twice the speed limit on eastbound Osuna NE when he ran a red light and struck Sandoval’s sport-utility vehicle in the Wyoming intersection.
A 2019 graduate of Manzano High School, Sandoval was pursuing a degree in film at Central New Mexico Community College and was passionate about photography, said his mother, Christian Sanchez.
“He was also a very caring person” who felt a responsibility for his three sisters and two brothers, she said. “He said, ‘I have to be a male role model for my brothers. I have to guide them in life about making good choices and being responsible.’ ”
She described her son as both a perfectionist with serious plans and goals, and a “joker” among friends and family.
“He was a practical joker and he was always doing something to make you laugh,” Sanchez said.
At the time of his death, Sandoval worked at Sports and Wellness Highpoint and had worked previously for three years at the city’s Holiday Park Community Center.
“His passion was really photography,” she said, adding, “He had his whole life planned out. He was very serious about everything he did. He left nothing to chance.”
Sandoval had visited Europe in high school and was eager to travel the world, she said.
“I think that’s why film and photography really inspired him a lot because it’s about being out there,” Sanchez said.
Shetima-Joe pleaded no contest to two felonies: homicide by vehicle and driving while intoxicated.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, a police officer attempted to pursue a 2020 Challenger speeding east on Osuna. The officer attempted to follow the car, but the driver turned off the car’s head and tail lights, the complaint said. Moments later, the officer found the car crashed in the intersection of Wyoming and Osuna NE.
Shetima-Joe got out of his car and began yelling at police officers at the scene, the complaint said. He later admitted that he had been “drinking a little bit” and had been driving 78 mph in a 35 mph zone.