A Pasco mother who had to bury her daughter last year because of her son's deadly actions told a judge Tuesday that her "heart is broken in pieces" but pleaded for a lighter sentence because he is missed at home.
Leovigilda Velasco-Garcia cried as she stood just feet from her 29-year-old son, Aaron Velasco, who was dressed in the Franklin County jail's orange uniform.
Velasco pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and was before the court on a recommended 15-year prison term.
In her "very humble plea" to Superior Court Judge Carrie Runge, Velasco-Garcia said she recognized the judge has the last word but added she was asking God to give them love, wisdom and compassion and touch Runge's "noble heart."
Velasco-Garcia told the court she is suffering because her children are no longer with her.
"One I sent to the cemetery, and the other one is here to be sentenced," she said through interpreter Ana Armijo. "I know that you are going to sentence my son Aaron Velasco-Garcia. I know that he is guilty. ... I know that he is sorry. I know him very well."
She was unsuccessful in her plea for a shorter sentence, because it was an agreed deal between prosecutors and defense lawyers that took into consideration Velasco's swift plea instead of prolonging the process by dragging his family through a trial.
Magdalena "Maggy" Velasco-Garcia was found dead June 9 in a neighbor's driveway on Glendive Court. She died of severe blood loss after being hit on her head, torso, arms and legs.
Velasco admitted he attacked his 22-year-old sister with a machete.
Police responded to the scene at 2:49 p.m. after Velasco called 911 about the slaying. The brother and sister were the only ones in their 2714 Glendive Court home when they fought.
Authorities, who described it as a "very violent" attack, found blood in the kitchen, three bedrooms, hallway, a bathroom, on the screen door to the patio, the garage door and the driveway next door. A broken knife handle and knife blade also were discovered in the family's kitchen, and the machete was inside a garbage can, along with pants, shoes and wigs.
After his arrest, Velasco told Pasco officers that his sister had been mean to him and wouldn't stop, court documents stated. Once he learned his sister had died, he reportedly said, "I didn't mean to kill her. I only meant to hurt her," documents stated.
Velasco's conviction includes the special allegation that it was an act of domestic violence. He had no prior criminal history.
Leovigilda Velasco-Garcia told the court that since Velasco is their only son, he had been helping the family with finances and other matters. Velasco had been employed at the Hanford site, though his exact job is not known.
"I know that my son is not a bad person, though he did something bad. What he did is bad, but he is humble and they miss him very much at his job and with us, too," Velasco-Garcia told Runge. "I know that God and my daughter have forgiven him. Well, we are Christians and the Bible says that God forgives the worst sinners."
Velasco faced the judge as he apologized for what he has done to his family.
"I want to say that I'm really sorry for what happened," he said. "I know I have hurt a lot of people, and I'm not proud. ... I'm right here now to take responsibility for my actions, just the way it should be.
"I'm right here to be responsible and pay for my freedom for what I've done, and I leave my freedom in your hands -- and God," he added.
The standard range for the crime is 10 years and three months to 18 years and four months.
Prosecutor Shawn Sant said they were able to reach a resolution on the case, in part because of the efforts of Pasco police, Pasco firefighters, Coroner Dan Blasdel and the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab's services.
Sant said they found themselves in a difficult situation because the victim and the suspect were from the same family and, although it is a serious case, 15 years is fair.
Defense lawyers Karla Kane and Sal Mendoza Jr. added that their client always has been forthcoming and understands the seriousness of his actions.
Runge told Velasco that no one could be more eloquent or express their thoughts and feelings better than his mother.
"Your mom says that you are not a bad person. Of course, I'm not here to determine that," she said. "Rather, what the law provides is that I am here to determine an appropriate sentence based on the actions that you did. Your actions were extremely horrific on this particular day."
Runge said her knowledge of the case is limited because Velasco pleaded before trial so she didn't get to hear the evidence. She said she has not read the police files or media reports, so she does not know "what took place other than you took the life of your sister. I have no understanding or comprehension or reasons why you chose to do that on this particular day."
Runge told Velasco that her heart breaks for his mother, but when considering an appropriate sentence, she also needs to view it from a community perspective.
Velasco's actions were "committed not only against the victim but against all citizens of Franklin County," she said. "The court understands that the state and your lawyers have worked together and have reviewed the reports, that your lawyers have listened to you and no doubt family members, and there have been long discussions."
Runge agreed to the 15-year term.
"I can tell you from some people's perspective, 15 years would never be sufficient for the loss of a life," she told him. "But I'm taking into account the fact that your mom has suffered greatly as a result of your actions, and taking into account that your lawyers and the state worked diligently in arriving at this resolution, and taking into account that you have taken responsibility by pleading guilty."
The lawyers believe that Velasco should be able to get a job once he is released from prison, based on his previous employment history, so he can pay almost $6,000 in restitution, including expert fees.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org