A former Las Vegas pastor was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for fatally shooting his neighbor and her friend in 2020.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that the shooting was the culmination of a neighborhood feud that had lasted for more than a decade between Olivo and Cote, a former pastor at Mountain View Baptist Church.
“This was an incredibly violent murder, and it was one that was absolutely unnecessary,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Pamela Weckerly said during the sentencing hearing.
Before he was sentenced, Cote repeated claims he made during the trial that he shot into his neighbor’s backyard and killed Olivo and Hanson, who were both unarmed, because he thought his daughter was being threatened.
“That was my reality on that night when I had to protect my 9-year-old firstborn daughter from a potential loss of life,” Cote said.
Weckerly told the judge that Cote had shown “very little remorse for the killings.” During the hearing, Cote turned to family members sitting in the courtroom and said he wished “this never would have had to take place.”
District Judge Michelle Leavitt sentenced Cote to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 56 years. He has received credit for 756 days already served in custody.
Michael Sanft, Cote’s defense attorney, argued during the trial that Cote was acting in self-defense. Sanft said Wednesday that Cote plans to file an appeal.
The conflict between Cote’s family and Olivo began in 2009, shortly after he moved into his home near Smoke Ranch Road and Decatur Boulevard, Cote testified during the trial. Over the next decade, both neighbors called the police on each other and applied for restraining orders, and Cote claimed that Olivo had threatened to shoot his wife.
Prosecutors argued that Cote tried to get Olivo evicted and had attempted to persuade her to attend his church. Cote said during the trial that he had found a torn-up picture of Jesus on his front porch, and that Olivo had hung up a white banner reading “Satan” in her yard where he could see it.
Hours before the shooting on June 25, 2020, Cote again reported Olivo to the police, after she sprayed him and his daughter with a hose while he videotaped Olivo watering plants in her yard.
Cote testified that he heard Hanson yelling outside his home that night. Cote said he grabbed his 12-gauge shotgun and walked outside, where he found his 9-year-old daughter in the yard as Hanson yelled at her to “go get your daddy.”
The defendant admitted during the trial that he did not intend to speak with Hanson when he heard him yelling. Instead, he aimed his shotgun over the wall separating the two properties, and shot Olivo and Hanson in the head.
“As the jury ruled, there’s no set of circumstances that justify how our father was taken from us,” Hanson’s oldest daughter, Tai Hanson, said during the sentencing hearing.
Hanson was a veteran of the Marines and the head chef at Rollin Smoke Barbeque. His family described him as an inspiring father who made sure to tell his children he was proud of them, and loved spending time with his grandchildren.
“Funny, charming, caring and strong, and charismatic — just a few words that encapsulate the man who raised me into who I am today,” Tai Hanson said.
Hanson’s daughter Choyce Guice said she has struggled with her father’s killing because she was raised going to church, where she learned to trust and respect pastors. But Guice said she still holds onto her faith, which called her to forgive Cote.
“You should know that I’m not forgiving you for you,” Guice said, crying as she addressed Cote. “But I forgive you for me, so that I can live in peace.”
Olivo’s daughter, Lissette Botello, sobbed as she spoke during the sentencing hearing. Botello said she misses being able to call her mother after a bad day, or being able to watch her laugh and dance to her favorite songs.
“You took a big piece of my life and my heart,” Botello said.
Following the hearing, Botello said she was happy with the sentence, but “the pain is still there.”