By Amy Berberyan, Katherine Longjohn, and Sam Alcaraz
RIVERSIDE, CA — When parties gathered this Friday morning in Riverside County Superior Court for the sentencing of Raul Alcantar Sanchez, Jr., Deputy Public Defender Kimberly Allee requested a three-week continuance—despite ensuring the court in November the defense would be ready Friday.
This request was made because the defense investigator had been out of the office due to COVID-19.
PD Allee explained, “Not only had the investigator had a car accident and had part of his leg amputated, we’ve had numerous investigative staff, attorneys, and LFAs from our office that have become positive for COVID-19 and have been out of the office.”
PD Allee noted a declaration from Juror 2, who had previously been removed “for bringing in notes from outside” and had brought up things the court had previously been unaware of with regard to the investigation.
Furthermore, Juror 2 had violated the court order by researching how to be a foreperson. Judge Villalobos suspected she went on WebMD and similar sites to look up drug names.
After her removal, PD Allee said Juror 2 sent a letter to the court “indicating hostility and coercive jury deliberation.”
Defense District Attorney Anne-Marie Lofthouse said that Juror 2 never mentioned what she wrote in her letter despite numerous court screenings and interviews.
PD Allee claimed several jurors “confirmed several of the aspects that [Juror 2] is talking about” with regard to coercion allegations and said this supported a motion for a new trial. She said there was sufficient evidence to call in jurors through subpoena and was drafting a motion to do so.
The judge denied the continuance and proceeded with the sentencing.
According to DDA Lofthouse, “the defendant in this case committed a hate killing,” and detailed the evidence previously brought out in court, which indicated “a long history of this particular defendant hating [the victim] and wanting her out of his father’s trailer.”
DDA Lofthouse stressed aggravating factors involved in this case far exceeded any mitigating factors PD Allee pointed out.
“This crime did involve great violence,” she said, adding the victim was “stabbed with two weapons–a screwdriver and a knife–over 120 times, 65 times to the face.”
DDA Lofthouse pointed out the vulnerability of the victim, reminding the court that Sanchez went to her bedroom to kill her when she was home alone. This, said the prosecutor, “was a deliberate, planned out killing.”
She reminded the court of a photograph in which the victim “was backed up into the farthest corner of the room when she was basically bludgeoned. The People’s position is that this is in no way shape or form a probation case. The most appropriate sentence in this case is the maximum allowable under the law.”
Judge Villalobos expressed he was very disturbed by the circumstances of the case.
While living in this house, he said the victim “had no support from her significant other, which was the defendant’s father.” He added Sanchez’s father could have easily resolved the situation, asking either the victim or Sanchez to leave; he did not do so.
Instead, the Sanchez’ father covered for his son’s bad behavior, said Judge Villalobos, adding the possibility of rape having occurred, and said it was clear “this woman was living in the house of horrors.”
When Sanchez’s father visited his son in jail, the judge noted, the father said, “Well she’s gone now, let’s move on.” Judge Villalobos said that gave him the impression that “she was discarded, like she really didn’t matter.”
Furthermore, the judge commented on the brutal nature of the crime, describing how Sanchez grabbed a screwdriver after he was done with the knife. The victim suffered multiple stab wounds to the face, the eyeballs, and multiple defensive wounds.
“Needless to say,” said Judge Villalobos, “her last few seconds on earth were hell.”
Given the calculated nature of the crime and the jury’s previous ruling, the judge ruled Sanchez was sane during the events of the crime.
PD Allee requested the minimum sentencing, advocating for probation as well as reduced restitution and parole revocation fees for Sanchez since it was proven prior to trial that he had not been employed or had a source of income and had been incarcerated since 2012.
She also requested that should the court not grant probation, the one-year enhancement charge for the use of a weapon be struck.
Judge Villalobos denied the request for probation due to the heinous nature of the crime, saying that “this is a case where probation should not even be considered.”
While Judge Villalobos considered striking the enhancement for the use of a weapon, he ultimately denied the request because Sanchez used not one, but two, weapons.
Sanchez was sentenced to full incarceration of one year determinate and 25 years to life indeterminate.
After hearing that Sanchez’s father had recently passed away, Judge Villalobos offered him a few words of sympathy.
“I hope you make the best of this,” he said. “This was pretty heinous, but I hope at this point you can make the best of your life with whatever opportunities are offered for you at state prison, and that you take advantage of those. And I’m sorry to hear about your father.”