Caldwell man, 18, sentenced to at least 32-year prison term for murder of 19-year-old

An 18-year-old Caldwell man convicted of first-degree murder was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison Tuesday for his role in the shooting death of a 19-year-old in the fall of 2021.

A jury found Ethan Almaraz guilty of four felonies, including one count of murder, following a seven-day trial in October. The other charges entailed one count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Almaraz, who Canyon County prosecutors identified as a documented Norteno gang member, used a handgun to fire seven shots from a vehicle at a group of teenagers in a residential area in North Caldwell on Sept. 17, 2021, according to a Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office news release.

A fight broke out that night at a party that members of rival gangs attended, leading to someone firing a gun in the air and people fleeing, prosecutors said. Almaraz was there with peers and later fired a gun from a vehicle, hitting two 19-year-olds, including Jose Hernandez, near the intersection of Indiana Avenue and Hillcrest Lane, according to the news release.

Hernandez and the other victim were taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for gunshot wounds. Hernandez died of his injuries, the prosecutor’s office said.

“The citizens of Canyon County have zero tolerance for gangs and gang activity,” Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor said in a statement. “It has no place in our community. I hope today’s sentence sends a message that those who commit gang-related crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and held accountable for their actions.”

District Judge Thomas W. Whitney sentenced Almaraz to 32 years to life for the one count of murder, which included a gang enhancement. He also received seven years on the aggravated battery charge, and four years each on the two counts of aggravated assault. The sentences will run concurrently, and could include up to another combined 21 years in prison beyond Amaraz’s felony murder conviction, per Whitney’s sentencing guidelines.

At sentencing, Whitney told Almaraz that he showed no remorse and refused to take responsibility for his crimes, the news release said. Whitney also ordered Almaraz to have no contact with the victims, their families and several witnesses for 70 years, and pay $5,500 in fines plus court costs.

“Today, justice has prevailed in the sentencing of Mr. Almaraz,” Caldwell Police Chief Rex Ingram said in a statement. “Throughout his juvenile life, Mr. Almaraz has been the beneficiary of judicial discretion that allowed him to continue to threaten and harm our community, ultimately leading to the tragic murder of an innocent life and the destruction of multiple families.”