Modesto — Eugene Schmitz on Thursday wondered what type of accomplishments his daughter could have achieved had she not been killed.
This person took my childs life, Schmitz said about the man who strangled his daughter. Please restrain him from doing further harm.
Schmitz spoke in court shortly before Stanislaus County Judge Thomas Zeff sentenced Albert Lee Talley to 24 years in prison in the death of Jacqueline Marie Borja Schmitz. Authorities say Talley strangled the 29-year-old woman, who last was seen alive May 4, 2009.
Two days later, her body was found in her studio apartment in the 700 block of 18th Street, on the east edge of downtown Modesto. Police found her with an electrical cord wrapped around her neck.
Talley, 40, has pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, according to Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne. The defendants trial was scheduled to start this week.
Relatives of victims are allowed to speak in court before a defendant is sentenced.
Cousin Savannah Blackstock said Schmitz was like the big sister she never had. She said the young womans death has caused a lot of pain for her family. I just hope this never happens to anybody else, she said in court.
The late Deputy District Attorney Frank Alvarez prosecuted the case during the preliminary hearing in December 2011. Alvarez argued then that Talley was angry at Schmitz, who owed him money. He said Talley told others, days before Schmitz died, that he was going to choke her.
Stephen Foley, Talleys defense attorney, argued in the preliminary hearing that there were no signs of a struggle at the apartment to indicate a murder had occurred. Investigators found numerous prescription drug containers at Schmitzs home, including 30 that had pills inside.
Thursday, Schmitzs family told the judge that the young woman showed a lot of promise academically, but she struggled with a devastating illness.
A detective testified in the preliminary hearing that they found Fentanyl patches, including one patch on Schmitzs back. Fentanyl patches are used for long-term or chronic pain. A forensic pathologist determined that strangulation was the cause of death, ruling out other possibilities.
Schmitzs cousin Bryan Blackstock spoke directly to Talley as he stood several feet away from the defendant Thursday. He told Talley to enjoy the fresh air on the bus ride to prison, suggesting that the defendant wont be getting much of it inside a prison cell.
I hope the walls get smaller and smaller, Blackstock said in court.
Talley has been in custody since May 2009, awaiting the conclusion of his homicide case. The defendant did not say anything during Thursdays hearing. He glanced at the courtroom audience as bailiffs ushered him out.
When he was arrested on suspicion of murder in Schmitzs death, Talley already was in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail in another case.
Modesto police had arrested him on suspicion of carjacking after a report that a vehicle was stolen from a woman at the Walgreens drugstore at Sylvan Avenue and Coffee Road in north Modesto, several hours after Schmitz was found dead.
According to the Stanislaus County District Attorneys Office, Talley approached the woman at the Walgreens as she walked to her vehicle and demanded she hand over her keys. Talley and the woman struggled over the keys until she dropped them and he picked them up, ran to her car and drove away.
On May 7, 2009, Modesto police said they found Talley driving the stolen vehicle and arrested him after a short chase. Prosecutors have said Talley pleaded guilty to the carjacking charge in his first court appearance, eight days after he was arrested on suspicion of stealing the car.
Talley initially was sentenced to seven years in prison on the carjacking charge, but he was resentenced Thursday to three years in prison in accordance with the plea deal in the homicide case. Zeff said the three-year sentence would run concurrently with the 24-year sentence.