Attempt to drown girlfriend earns a sentence of up to life

There's not a lot of wiggle room when someone is caught in the act, so the case of Jesus Contreras Galvan, who was trying to drown his pregnant girlfriend when Modesto police arrested him in April, sped through Stanislaus County Superior Court in record time.

The 36-year-old man was sentenced Friday to eight years eight months to life in prison. In September, a jury determined that Galvan is guilty of attempted murder, kidnapping, domestic violence and making a criminal threat.

Most cases with such serious charges take years to work their way through the legal system. Galvan, who worked at an auto parts shop, proceeded directly to trial and took the witness stand to explain himself.

Galvan said he pushed 19-year-old Sylvia Chavarria, who was six months pregnant with his child, because he found a syringe in her bedroom after she promised not to use drugs. He said he did not choke her, was not trying to kill her and was not holding a 4-inch nail to her neck, as police allege.

He told a probation officer that he does not deserve a life sentence.

"Sylvia put me in a lot of trouble," Galvan said, according to the officer's report.

Modesto police found the couple in three feet of water in Dry Creek, near East La Loma Park, at 5:52 p.m. April 4.

Authorities said Galvan and Chavarria got into an argument outside his family's home on Lance Street. They said Galvan dragged Chavarria into an alley, pushed her to the ground, told her he was going to drown her, then dragged her to the creek, where he submerged her head.

Several people watched the struggle and called 911.

Chavarria, who suffered minor injuries, broke free as offi-cers deployed a Taser in Galvan's direction.

She later gave birth to a daughter, who is being raised by Chavarria's mother, according to court records.

Jurors rejected an assault charge stemming from the nail allegation, but said Galvan is guilty of the stiffest charge, attempted murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of seven years to life.

During a sentencing hearing, attorneys argued about the time he should face for the remaining charges.

Deputy Public Defender Donnell Snipes said Galvan should be given concurrent sentences, because the crimes stem from one event. Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Owen said Galvan should be given the maximum sentence through consecutive sentences because he has shown no remorse.

Judge John G. Whiteside split the difference, letting the kidnapping charge run concurrently with the sentence for attempted murder, then tacking on more time for the charges of domestic violence and making a criminal threat.

"He seems to be minimizing his conduct, denying what the jury clearly found to be the facts in this case," Whiteside said.

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.