A convicted sex offender was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of two 6-year-old Southland boys in the 1980s.
Superior Court Judge Juan Carlos Dominguez handed down the sentence for 59-year-old Kenneth Kasten Rasmuson, who was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, following a series of emotional statements from the families of Jeffrey Vargo and Miguel Antero.
“I just don’t want you to think, although anything is always possible, that Mr. Rasmusen will ever see the light of day outside of a prison wall,” the judge told the victims’ family members after noting that applicable law required him to order the defendant not to possess any firearms or ammunition.
The judge called the victims “two beautiful little boys” and told their families that he was “so very sorry for your loss.”
Jeffrey disappeared on July 2, 1981, after leaving his Anaheim Hills home to look at a fireworks stand. His body was found the next day by construction workers in Pomona.
His mother, Connie, told the judge that a “cloud of sadness” overcame his family, which was “devastated” by her son’s killing.
“We miss him every single day,” she said, noting that it’s been four decades since he was killed. “He was murdered and left in a construction site. What kind of a monster would leave a little 6-year-old boy in a construction site — dead? I still don’t know why.”
Jeffrey’s father said the last time they saw their son was to view his “scarred and lifeless body lying in a casket with his favorite toys.”
Miguel’s body was found in a wash in Agoura Hills on April 8, 1986, the same day he went missing from his Agoura Hills home. Family members told the judge that their lives had drastically changed since the boy’s death.
Rasmuson was arrested in Idaho in 2015 after a DNA hit connected him to Jeffrey’s killing, and he was subsequently linked to Miguel’s slaying.
He pleaded no contest Feb. 22 to two counts of murder and admitted the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer made the highly unusual move earlier that month to charge Rasmuson for Jeffrey’s killing, even though the defendant was already facing trial for that murder in Los Angeles County.
Spitzer’s prosecutors were poised to take over the Orange County-related murder if Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón wanted to drop the special circumstance allegation as had been requested in other murder cases before a judge ruled mostly in favor of the union representing L.A. County prosecutors in their legal battle with Gascón over a series of new directives, including one involving sentencing enhancements.
In a statement released after Rasmuson’s plea, Gascón said the defendant was “always facing life in prison.” He added that “splitting this case up or seeking the death penalty in a state with a moratorium would have dragged the victims through decades of legal proceedings for an execution that is exceedingly unlikely to be imposed.”
Gascón said in one of his directives, issued shortly after he was sworn into office last December, that a death sentence is “never an appropriate resolution in any case.”
Spitzer said he charged Rasmuson with Jeffrey’s killing because he was concerned that the defendant might get a parole hearing one day and a chance to be free if the special circumstance allegations were dismissed.
“He kidnapped two young, vulnerable 6-year-old boys, sexually assaulted them, and murdered them,” a motion filed by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office read. “Defendant’s background, character and prospects show he is a dangerous serial predator with no likelihood to ever change. He has served two prison terms for molesting an 11-year-old boy he lured into seclusion before sodomizing him and he abducted a 3-year-old boy from the boy’s front yard before later sodomizing him and leaving him wandering naked on a street the next day.”
Two months after the Orange County victim was killed, Rasmuson sexually assaulted the 11-year-old by asking him “to help find his handicapped dog” in Santa Barbara, according to the motion. The boy lied to his attacker that he liked it so he could get away, which worked, prosecutors said.
Rasmuson was sentenced to prison for the 1981 sexual assault, and when he completed that prison term, he was deemed a “mentally disordered offender,” Orange County prosecutors said. He was released from prison in 1985 and ordered to undergo sexual disorder treatment, and during this time he killed Miguel, prosecutors said.
A year later, Rasmuson abducted the 3-year-old from the front yard of his Los Angeles home and drove away. The toddler was found naked the next day, wandering on the side of a road, and Rasmuson was eventually convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
After Rasmuson served his time, he was designated a sexually violent predator and was committed to Atascadero State Hospital. He was released in 2007.
Rasmuson “admitted” to doctors that he had “committed at least 10 child molestations since age 18, a period of time in defendant’s life comprising only four and a half years of freedom from incarceration,” according to the OC filing. “Defendant grabs unsuspecting children off the streets of their neighborhoods, or even from the front yards of their houses. He is brazen, impulsive and unconcerned with the suffering of others, all of which make him highly dangerous.”
“I am so relieved that now this is coming to a close,” Jeffrey’s mother, Connie, told reporters outside court after Rasmuson’s plea in February.
She said Gascón’s office planned to dismiss the special circumstances allegations “for this heinous crime, but now we know (Rasmuson’s) going to jail for the rest of his life… This case has gone on way too long.”
Miguel’s sister said her family was “blindsided” by the plea deal. Enid Antero, who lives in New York, was traveling when she was alerted to the no contest plea in February, and a relative had to rush over to the hearing, she said.
“We weren’t expecting this at all,” Antero told City News Service. “It was almost like we were blindsided by the good news behind a dark cloud… We were expecting to go to court and get news of a trial date set.”
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