PASCO — A Pasco man who stabbed his girlfriend in the neck will spend more than 16 years in prison because he nearly killed the woman, a judge said Tuesday.
Judge Craig Matheson went against the recommendations of the prosecutor and the defense and ordered Serafin Gandara-Medina to serve the top of the standard sentencing range -- 16 years and eight months.
The decision came a day after a Franklin County jury convicted Gandara-Medina of second-degree attempted murder and intimidating a witness. Both crimes involved Diana Salgado, a 24-year-old Pasco woman who'd been dating Gandara-Medina and let him move in with her and her two daughters.
The jury deliberated about 1 1/2 hours Monday before returning the verdicts, which also included a finding that Gandara-Medina was armed with a deadly weapon. That added two years to the normal sentence.
Never miss a local story.
Matheson said he's seen a lot of cases on the bench and what Gandara-Medina did on Nov. 20 was not "a run-of-the-mill attempted murder."
"This was nearly a homicide and an egregious wound was inflicted, both physically and emotionally. I don't think anything below the top of the range is appropriate," he said.
"I recognize the defendant does not have any (criminal) history," Matheson added. "That is something to consider, but I think it's completely outweighed by the facts of the case and his subsequent behavior."
Matheson added that the crime was aggravated by Gandara-Medina's decision to send a threatening letter to Salgado in February.
That threat "really heightened the (victim's) anxiety over this and continued the threat and continued the fear inflicted by this injury," he said.
Gandara-Medina, 27, did not say anything at his sentencing.
His lawyer, Karla Kane, claimed during the trial that Salgado stabbed herself after becoming upset after learning her boyfriend was going back to his wife and two children. Gandara-Medina took the blame with Pasco police because he said he loved his girlfriend and didn't want to see her go to jail, Kane said.
But jurors didn't believe that.
Salgado had tearfully testified that Gandara-Medina grabbed her hair, pulled a knife from his pocket, yanked her head back and stabbed her. "He pulled it out to stab me again and I was fighting him back," she said.
Salgado said she begged for her life and repeatedly told Gandara-Medina she loved him until he let her go and took her to the hospital.
Deputy Prosecutor Brian Hultgrenn told jurors that Gandara-Medina was a jealous man who didn't like his girlfriend talking to other men and tried to kill her when she tried to end the relationship and kick him out of her apartment.
Gandara-Medina took Salgado to Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco that night.
Police were called and found him with blood on his pants and arrested him. Back at Salgado's Court Street apartment, officers found bloody sheets, a blood-soaked pillow and a knife in the bushes outside where she'd tossed it to keep it away from him.
Salgado was later taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for more treatment.
Then in February, Gandara-Medina sent a letter from the Franklin County jail using another name and addressed to his pet name for his girlfriend.
The letter, written in big block handwriting, told Salgado, "Her days were numbered, that she could not hide from death and that it wouldn't do her any good to leave because he would find her," Hultgrenn said at the trial.
The letter also said the more time Gandara-Medina got for the crimes, the worse it would be for her.
Hultgrenn asked Matheson on Tuesday to give Gandara-Medina a total 15-year sentence.
He said the sentence was warranted because of the attack's lasting impact on Salgado. "It doesn't appear he will be impacted by this; however, this is something the victim will carry with her for the rest of her days," he said.
Hultgrenn also asked the judge to consider how the crime affected Salgado's children. He said her then-6-year-old daughter wasn't called to testify to spare her the pain. But he said the child told authorities about hearing her mother beg Gandara-Medina, "Please, please don't," and saw her with what the girl believed was ketchup on her back.
Salgado submitted a four-page letter to Matheson on Tuesday to consider before the sentencing. She attended the hearing but decided to let the letter speak for itself.
In it, Salgado talked about her hospitalization, recurring nightmares from which she would wake up screaming and paranoia of someone breaking into her home while she slept and hurting her or her family.
"I had to move from where I lived since I could not emotionally and mentally handle being where the incident had occurred. It was like reliving the memory over and over and kept me in a depressed state where I mostly cried every day," she wrote.
"Even though I have healed physically, I still carry the scars with me about what happened. But that's not the only thing I was left with," she added, saying the attack took a lot out of her mentally and emotionally. "I have also not been able to trust or get close or allowed others to get close due to the fear of being hurt."
Salgado said she is grateful the court case was wrapped up and she can start to move on with her life.
"I am at peace to know that justice will be served and that he will have the consequences for his actions, though the pain he has caused my family and I will never be undone," she wrote. "I hope that through time, just like the scars on my body, this memory too will fade from the memories of my daughters and me."
Kane had requested a sentence of 10 years and four months for her client, at the bottom of the range. She described the stabbing as a crime of passion and jealousy.
Kane said Gandara-Medina's family and friends couldn't attend Tuesday's hearing, but said his wife told her Gandara-Medina has "always been a loving and caring man up until he decided to leave her temporarily."
She said Matheson should consider "who my client is, what he has done in his life up until this point and adequately punish him for what the jury found."
Kane added, "Obviously I understand the impact this will have on Ms. Salgado and her children for their entire lives, but he is also going to prison for a substantial amount of time ... He also is going to live with it for the rest of his life, and he also is going to be remorseful and be regretful for the rest of his life."
Kane later filed a notice of appeal.
Matheson ordered Gandara-Medina to have no contact with Salgado or her daughters through 2070. He also told him to make use of his time behind bars so when he's released he can get back to work and live in society.