A defendant on Friday unexpectedly agreed to a plea deal and was sentenced to 36 years to life in prison for beating a Modesto couple before kidnapping and sexually assaulting their 3-year-old daughter more than 15 years ago.
Pedro Vicente Aguirre, 37, pleaded no contest to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 14. The assault charges included enhancements for causing great bodily injury.
The court has suspended Aguirre’s case three times after the defendant’s mental health came into question, and he has been the subject of three mental competency trials. In March, two forensic psychologists testified that Aguirre was faking symptoms of a mental disorder, so the judge reinstated the case and scheduled a trial.
In previous hearings, the defendant has created disruptions in the courtroom, speaking loudly and incoherently. The judge has twice removed Aguirre from the courtroom. On Friday afternoon, the defendant did not create any disruptions and told the judge he understood the plea agreement with prosecutors.
In exchange for his plea, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office agreed to drop charges of kidnapping to commit rape, aggravated sexual assault of a child, willful cruelty to a child and burglary. Prosecutors also agreed to reduce two counts of attempted murder to assault with a deadly weapon.
Aguirre avoids a trial that was scheduled to start April 9 with jury selection. Had he been convicted of all the charges, Aguirre would have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison without the chance of parole.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees said she had offered Aguirre this plea deal before, but the defendant had rejected it. Aguirre notified the court on Friday that he would agree to the deal.
It could have been difficult for some witnesses to testify in a trial about a violent attack that occurred more than 15 years ago, said Rees, who prosecuted the case. But she said the District Attorney’s Office was prepared to go to trial as scheduled.
Peter Stavrianoudakis, Aguirre’s attorney, has argued in court that his client suffers from mental illness and is not able to communicate coherently and assist in his defense. He argued in a May 2012 preliminary hearing that the prosecution presented conflicting testimony linking his client to the attack, the kidnapping and the sexual assault.
The couple’s 7-year-old boy was in the home when the attack on his parents occurred about 8 a.m. Oct. 24, 1999. That’s why prosecutors initially filed a child endangerment charge against Aguirre.
In the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor said Aguirre forced his way into the family’s home in the 1600 block of Imperial Avenue, between Tuscon and Yuma avenues in south Modesto.
Rees argued that Aguirre beat the 34-year-old father and 26-year-old mother with a tire iron before grabbing their daughter and running away. The girl was sexually assaulted in a nearby orchard, authorities have testified, and two witnesses stopped the assault and chased away the assailant.
The parents later were released from the hospital after being treated for major blunt-force head trauma. The girl required surgery.
Authorities have said Aguirre left Modesto and went to Guadalajara, Mexico, after the attacks. He was not seen again until he was extradited and returned to Stanislaus County in October, 12 years later.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff ordered Aguirre to register as a sex offender with authorities for the rest of his life. The judge also told the defendant that he would have to serve 10 years on parole if he were released from prison.
Aguirre will likely be deported after he serves his sentence.
The defendant was scheduled to return to court March 26 to determine how much credit for time already served in custody he will receive. The prosecutor said she will contact the victims and ask them if they want to speak in court next month before Aguirre is sent to prison.