After just a few days of testimony in his murder trial, Mark Edward Mesiti on Tuesday pleaded guilty to all charges involved in the drugging, sexual abuse and killing of his teenage daughter, Alycia Mesiti.
Eight years ago, the 14-year-old girl’s body was found buried in the backyard of the Ceres home where her father lived at the time of her disappearance in August 2006. He had since moved to Southern California.
It’s over... I just want to put it all behind me, except for honoring Alycia.
Roberta Fitzpatrick, Alycia Mesiti’s maternal great-aunt
Mesiti, 49, was convicted of murder and more than 40 counts of sexually abusing his daughter, as well as sexual abuse charges involving two other girls identified as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 in court documents. Jane Doe 1 was 8 years old when she was sexually abused, authorities said, and Jane Doe 2 was 16 and 17 when she was sexually abused. Both unnamed girls were abused in Los Angeles County.
Alycia’s maternal great-aunt, Roberta Fitzpatrick, attended every hearing in the murder case; she only missed three court dates. On Tuesday, she felt a sense of overwhelming relief after the case ended.
“It’s over. It’s been almost 12 years since she disappeared,” Fitzpatrick said after the defendant pleaded guilty. “I just want to put it all behind me, except for honoring Alycia.”
The trial began Oct. 3 with opening statements from the attorneys. Alycia died of a “mixed drug intoxication.”
The prosecution said investigators found images of Mesiti sexually assaulting his daughter while she was unconscious. Authorities believed Mesiti drugged his daughter with prescription anti-depressants, benzodiazepine, morphine and methadone to prevent her from resisting his sexual abuse.
The defense argued that Alycia likely died from a drug overdose, telling the jury that a forensic pathologist did not determine the manner of the girl’s death.
On Monday, the defense informed the prosecution that the defendant was willing to plea guilty to all the charges. In exchange, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office agreed to a sentence of life in prison without the chance of parole.
Had Mesiti’s trial continued and resulted in a guilty verdict, the jury would then have to decide whether to send Mesiti to California’s Death Row. The case was eligible for the death penalty.
In October 2015, Mesiti chose to legally represent himself in his trial. Two years later, Mesiti changed his mind and asked the court to appoint an attorney to represent him. Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves appointed Martin Baker and Bob Wildman to defend Mesiti. His attorneys declined to comment after Tuesday’s hearing.
I hope this represents the end of a torturous 11-year process for these families.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees
“I am very grateful by this just result and closure from these events for all three victims in this case,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees, who prosecuted the case. “I hope this represents the end of a torturous 11-year process for these families.”
The jury had already been shown about 100 child pornographic images found on the defendant’s computer. Those illicit images included 54 pornographic photos in which Mesiti’s ex-girlfriend, Shelly Walker, identified the defendant with his daughter. The jurors also had watched a video in which the defendant was setting a hidden camera in Jane Doe 2’s bedroom.
In the coming days of the trial, Ceres police Detective Arthur Hively was expected to show the jury the rest of about 1,700 child pornographic images and videos investigators found on Mesiti’s computer files.
Alycia’s great-aunt was grateful that the trial was now over and she wouldn’t have to see any more revolting images of the defendant abusing her niece.
“It was just horrible pictures that I knew would only get worse,” Fitzpatrick said. “The thought of what he did to her was awful.”
Judge Reeves recited in court each of the charges listed on Mesiti’s criminal indictment, along with every enhancement added to the charges. Each time the judge recited a criminal charge, Reeves asked the defendant for his plea. Mesiti pleaded guilty 49 times; the process took about 45 minutes.
The District Attorney’s Office also wrote an allocution statement listing in explicit detail every act of sexual abuse he committed on his daughter and the two other girls. Prosecutors required Mesiti to read this statement in court admitting he committed these acts of abuse in order to get his deal to avoid trial and a possible death sentence.
Mesiti’s guilty plea on Tuesday morning ended his trial. Judge Reeves called in the jurors and discharged them from the case. The court spent five weeks selecting the jury.
The judge scheduled Mesiti to return to court Nov. 28, when he will be formally sentenced. At that hearing, Alycia’s family and friends will have a chance to speak in court about the impact of her murder.
Reeves ordered Mesiti to register with authorities annually as a convicted sex offender, but that was more of a formality in the sentencing process. Mesiti will never be released from prison.
The defendant used to rent a home on Alexis Court home in Ceres, where he lived with his daughter. He was evicted from the home a few months after Alycia disappeared. The owners later discovered a large mound of soil covered with grass in the home’s backyard.
Authorities on March 25, 2009, found her body buried in the backyard. Prosecutors later formally filed charges against Mesiti in his daughter’s death.
Mesiti was arrested in Los Angeles and later convicted in 2011 of manufacturing methamphetamine. Prosecutors here waited two years before Mesiti’s case in Los Angeles concluded, and he was returned to Stanislaus County to face charges in his daughter’s death.
The case has been plagued by numerous delays. Mesiti had filed several motions in court, claiming he was being denied his right to a fair trial. He’d asked for new court-appointed attorneys multiple times.
Another Stanislaus County judge removed himself from Mesiti’s case after presiding over the case for six years. The same judge had previously granted a defense request to remove Rees from prosecuting the case only to have his ruling overturned by a state appellate court.
MOTIVE FOR GUILTY PLEA UNCLEAR
The prosecutor said it’s unclear to her why Mesiti decided to plead guilty in the middle of the trial. Rees said the case won’t be over for her until the defendant is formally sentenced next month.
“Given the history of this case, I am very suspect of the defendant’s sudden decision to enter a plea with no offer from the (prosecution) after eight years,” Rees said after Tuesday’s hearing. “I am reserving closing the books on this prosecution until the defendant is sentenced. The defendant is a highly manipulative, evil man.”