By Neha Malhi
RIVERSIDE, CA – A trial is ongoing this week here in Riverside County Superior Court in the long-delayed murder trial of Raul Alcantar Sanchez, Jr., who is suspected of killing 34-year-old Thermal resident Carolina Vargas in November 2012.
Sanchez was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and has been in a state mental facility for nine years after he was accused of fatally stabbing the victim 120 times using a knife and screwdriver. At the time of the incident, the victim was living with Sanchez and his father.
According to the investigation, the victim was the girlfriend of Sanchez’ father and was constantly living in fear.
Deputy District Attorney Anne-Marie Lofthouse said the accused hated her for romantically involving the father in a relationship, and he threatened her many times before finally killing her.
Previously, the defendant has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, had been declared mentally incompetent to stand a trial, and was held in a mental hospital for almost a decade. Only recently he was declared competent to stand trial.
On Friday, the jury heard the testimony of Sanchez’s father, who was the first to arrive at the crime scene. DDA Lofthouse asked various questions regarding Sanchez and the crime scene, to which he kept saying he “doesn’t recall.”
However, after repeated questioning from DDA Lofthouse and transcript of previous testimony, Sanchez’s father finally started giving responses.
The father said that on the day of the incident, when he reached home, he didn’t notice anything unusual, and that everything in the kitchen and house was in their proper place.
But, when he went to the bedroom, he saw the victim sitting on the chair. At first, he didn’t see anything wrong with her. Then he saw that her face was covered with a lot of blood.
Although the father said he called 911 right away, the investigation found he called his son (the defendant) first before calling 911.
According to the phone transcript, the defendant told his dad “I just want to ask you to forgive me for taking away, taking away, what, what you had there with her, she used to help you a lot, now she’s not there and that you’re going to struggle or things are going to change.”
In response to this, the defense attorney said that this phone transcript has not been admitted as a piece of evidence and said “this transcript didn’t refresh his recollection, he’s only agreeing with a piece of paper that was shown to him, with no personal knowledge.”
The father’s testimony on Friday conflicted with his original testimony.
In his initial testimony, he said that he saw a strike on Vargas’ throat and also heard her whisper for help. But on Friday, he said when he reached home he just saw that she had a lot of blood on her face, and other than that she didn’t seem to be in any kind of pain.
Initially, he also denied seeing any kind of cut on her throat or hearing her whisper for help, but after looking at the previous testimony transcript he agreed to it.
When asked by DDA Lofthouse, about the aggressive nature of his son or hearing him threatening the victim, the accused’s father said that he didn’t recall and the only time he saw his son fighting with someone was when the son was nine or 10 years old.
Due to the father’s initial response of “I don’t recall” to every question, DDA Lofthouse had to ask every question multiple times and had to point to the previous transcript for his recollection.
The jury trial will reconvene on Monday in Riverside Superior Court, Dept. 2H.