BRADENTON — The man who kidnapped 13-year-old Clay Moore from his Parrish school bus stop in 2007 will spend the rest of his life in prison, a judge ruled Friday.
Circuit Judge Thomas Gallen sentenced Vincente Ignacio Beltran-Moreno, 24, to life in prison after a jury found him guilty in June of armed kidnapping with a firearm. Beltran-Moreno will have 30 days to appeal the sentence.
Gallen called Beltran-Moreno’s crime “especially atrocious and cruel,” before the sentencing of the Mexican national who abducted Clay on Feb. 23, 2007.
Prosecutors said after kidnapping Clay at gunpoint, Beltran-Moreno covered Clay’s mouth with duct tape and bound him to a tree with the boy’s shoelaces in a wooded area of a farm in East Manatee. He then fled to Mexico and had to be coaxed back into the country by FBI negotiators.
“If there is the potential that this sentence will prevent one kidnapping of a child, then the criminal justice system has served it purpose,” Gallen said.
Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten read written statements penned by Clay and his family before sentencing, in which the family, including Clay, asked for the maximum sentence.
“I don’t want this to happen to any person again,” Clay wrote. “I don’t want to be known as Clay Moore, the kidnapping victim. I just want to be known as Clay Moore.”
During a weeklong trial, Iten presented evidence that Beltran-Moreno had planned to a kidnap a child for days, having his girlfriend, the mother of his two children, write a ransom note. Beltran-Moreno would later tell FBI agents he kidnapped Clay randomly because he had “crushing debt,” Iten said.
Beltran-Moreno’s girlfriend, Ana Pureco-Tinoco, pleaded to charges of helping Beltran-Moreno by driving him to Mexico after the kidnapping, and also testified against him. She was sentenced to almost three years prison for her role in his escape.
“Many people have crushing debt, but who among the citizenry decides to handle their debt by kidnapping a child?” Iten asked in his statement to the judge seeking life in prison.
Beltran-Moreno’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Matthew Gish, asked Gallen to sentence his client to the mandatory minimum of 10 years he faced for the crime. Gish argued his client deserved a lesser sentence because he cooperated with authorities, and never intended to harm Clay. “As the state had pointed out, he did this for money, not trying to hurt, harm or kill someone,” Gish said.
After the sentencing, Clay’s father, Tim Moore, expressed relief and satisfaction with the sentence. “I don’t have sympathy for him,” Moore said of Beltran-Moreno. “Especially since he is a father, too. He left his kids that morning and then went and took mine.”