TRENTON, Nebraska -- The couple answered "yes" or "no" to questions, sitting passively, neither showing much emotion, until the subject of their children came up.
Then pretty, dark-haired Veronica J. Contreras started crying. Quietly, wiping at her eyes, her shoulders shaking ... as her attorney Eric Eisenhart told Hitchcock County District Court Judge David Urbom that her six children are in two temporary foster homes following the Culbertson couple's arrests for manufacture of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Veronica's husband, Randy Lee Contreras, dressed in orange jail garb that matched his wife's, leaned toward his wife, laid his head on her shoulder as he, too, wiped at tears.
During the couple's arraignment in Hitchcock County District Court in Trenton Thursday afternoon, Judge Urbom denied Eisenhart's request that the couple's bond -- $75,000 each with a 10 percent provision allowed for their release -- be changed to an OR (own recognizance) bond, "to allow Mom out, or both of them on an alternating basis, to see their children."
Eisenhart told the judge that although Randy is from Colorado and has few ties to Southwest Nebraska, Veronica grew up in Culbertson and still has family there, and that the couple has six minor children here. "They have no interest in abandoning their children and running away," Eisenhart said. "They're not about to run, to flee, to avoid. A reduction (in bond) is fair."
Eisenhart explained that he had told his clients that the chances of a bond reduction were slim.
Judge Urbom told Eisenhart that the standing bond for each "is not unreasonable," and declined to reduce it. The couple remains in jail.
Veronica, 25 years old, and Randy, 35 years old, each pleaded "not guilty" to Count 1, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony that being the distribution and/or possession of methamphetamine; and Counts 2, 3, 4 and 5, manufacture, distribution and/or delivery of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of an elementary school, between Nov. 28 and Dec. 7.
Count 1 is a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison. Counts 2, 3, 4 and 5 are Class 1D felonies punishable up three to 50 years in prison. Judge Urbom explained to the couple that if they are found guilty, he could order that their sentences be served consecutively rather than concurrently.
Judge Urbom continued the Contreras' case for a status hearing Thursday, Feb. 7, at 2:30 p.m.
In another district court case Thursday afternoon, Judge Urbom arraigned 20-year-old Abraham M. Weber of Culbertson on charges of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, that being terroristic threats, on Nov. 24 and 25, 2012 (Count 1); making terrorist threats (against sister and brother Shelby E. Cook and Trent J. Cook) (Counts 2 and 3; forcible entry (of Trent Cook's home in Culbertson) (Count 4); and carrying a concealed weapon (a handgun) (Count 5, first offense).
Weber pleaded "not guilty" to all charges.
Count 1 is a Class 1C felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of five years. Counts 2 and 3 are Class 4 felonies each punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Counts 4 and 5 are each Class 1 misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.
Judge Urbom explained that Count 5 is "enhanceable," meaning that the range of punishment increases with each subsequent conviction. The judge also said that he could order restitution of monetary loss to victims and that sentences could be ordered to be served consecutively.
Urbom continued Weber's bond of $25,000. Weber had been released from jail released posting 10 percent.
Judge Urbom scheduled a status hearing for Thursday, Feb. 7, at 2 p.m., and ordered Weber to have no contact with the Cooks.