A 56-year-old Riverbank man who has suffered from mental illness will be sentenced to 12 years and eight months in prison for killing his wife.
Roque Palomino on Tuesday pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in the death of his wife, Cynthia Palomino. The 49-year-old woman was found in an orchard not far from where investigators discovered a truck submerged in a canal.
Investigators believed the defendant drove the truck into the canal, but it's unclear why. Prosecutors initially charged Palomino with murder and accused him of using a shovel to kill his wife with premeditation.
Palomino agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a murder trial that had been rescheduled to start next week. In exchange for his no contest plea, the murder charge was dropped, said John Goold, a spokesman for the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office.
Goold said the married couple's family agreed with the resolution in the criminal case. Public records show that the couple at the time of the wife's death owned Palomino Family Farms in Riverbank and sold products at the El Cerrito farmers market in Contra Costa County.
The defendant suffered from serious mental health problems at the time of the crime, which was part of the reasoning behind the plea deal. Goold said the couple had been married for a long time with no previous reports of domestic violence, and the defendant did not have a history of any criminal activity before his wife's death.
Palomino's voluntary manslaughter charge included an enhancement for using a deadly or dangerous weapon to kill his wife. The defendant also pleaded no contest to trying to take a gun away from a Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputy responding to a report of a fight.
Authorities found the defendant and his wife’s body about three years ago in a rural area between Escalon and Oakdale.
Deputies were called to the 9500 block of Victory Avenue, less than a mile north of the Stanislaus River, about 8:35 p.m. July 27, 2015. The first deputy who arrived found Palomino with injuries on his face.
When the deputy asked Palomino how he had been hurt, the defendant tried to take the deputy’s handgun from his holster, according to sheriff’s officials. The deputy used his Taser to subdue Palomino and take him into custody. Palomino later was taken to a hospital.
Investigators said Cynthia Palomino had been seen with her husband earlier in the evening. The sheriff’s dive team and helicopter helped look for her before deputies found her body in the nearby orchard.
Palomino remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail awaiting his sentencing hearing. He will be formally sentenced on May 15, when his wife's family will have a chance to speak in court about her death.
The defendant has been in custody at the jail since July 28, 2015. Goold said Palomino will not be credited for the time he has served in jail. He said Palomino will begin to serve his prison time once he's sentenced, and he will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence before he can be eligible for parole.