A 41-year-old felon was legally sane when he killed his father’s girlfriend in Thermal, jurors decided Wednesday.
Raul Alcantar Sanchez Jr. was convicted last week of murder for killing 34-year-old Carolina Vargas in November 2012, and the trial immediately moved into the sanity phase at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
Jurors reached their conclusion on the sanity issue Wednesday, and Sanchez now faces up to 27 years to life in state prison.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Anthony Villalobos scheduled Sanchez for sentencing on Nov. 19 at the Larson Justice Center.
“Someone can understand that something is illegal but still believe they are morally doing the right thing,” Sanchez’s attorney, Kimberly Allee, said in her closing statement for the sanity phase.
Allee said her client could not comprehend the gravity of his actions because of his psychoses. She said Sanchez was given to hallucinations and hearing voices, obliterating his ability to realize repercussions or the morality of his decisions.
Sanchez stabbed Vargas approximately 120 times, including over 50 times in the face and neck.
Allee tried to cast doubt on the credibility of a doctor who testified that her client was not psychotic during the attack, referring instead to medical reports that did find him mentally incompetent.
Deputy District Attorney Anne-Marie Lofthouse told jurors that Sanchez was looking for a way out of responsibility for the slaying, and that he knew what he was doing the entire time.
In her trial brief, the prosecutor quoted the defendant threatening the victim, telling her, “I’m gonna open you and eat your insides.”
Lofthouse said he threatened the victim multiple times, showing he had a clear intent to kill Vargas and “affirmed that intent with each stab wound.”
The prosecutor noted that Sanchez spoke to his father days after the killing and apologized for perpetrating it, reflecting normal reasoning in comprehension of the difference between right and wrong.
According to Lofthouse, there was planning and sophistication revealed in the defendant’s decision-making, including the fact that he waited for his father to be away before following through with his threats against Vargas.
Sanchez resented her presence and behavior toward him in the close confines of the mobile home the three occupied in the 85000 block of Middleton Street, according to trial testimony.
The attack happened on Nov. 21, 2012, while the elder Sanchez was out of the house.
The defendant cornered Vargas inside the doublewide and used a screwdriver and knife to inflict the dozens of deadly puncture wounds.
Sheriff’s deputies found Vargas’ body inside the residence soon afterward and arrested Sanchez near the scene, wearing pants covered in her blood, according to the prosecution.
“This is a disordered thought process. This is psychosis,” Allee said.
She told jurors that her client had a history of psychosis, a fact borne out by his commitment to a state mental hospital, where he underwent clinical treatment that culminated in findings that his mental fitness had been restored, at which point he was placed in the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio to await criminal proceedings, according to court papers.
Sanchez remains held at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio, according to jail records.
Sanchez’s prior felony convictions include burglary, vandalism and grand theft.