A teenager was sentenced to state prison for a total of four years on Wednesday for fatally stabbing his uncle in the chest last March.
First charged with murder, 18-year-old Francisco Torres Amezcua pleaded no contest to felony voluntary manslaughter before Judge Francisca P. Tisher in Napa County Superior Court last month.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense got what they asked for when it came to sentencing.
Deputy District Attorney Agnes Dziadur asked Tisher on Wednesday to sentence Amezcua to six years in state prison. Amezcua’s defense attorney, Jess Raphael, asked that the teenager be given probation.
Amezcua has been in custody at the Napa County jail since his arrest on March 2.
His uncle, Martin Torres-Sanchez, died that morning after spending the night at Queen of the Valley Medical Center. Torres-Sanchez, 31, of Calistoga, who had sustained a stab wound to his upper right chest, was admitted in critical condition after his brother-in-law, Ricardo Amezcua, dropped him off, according to police reports.
The investigation led police to Ricardo Amezcua’s home on the 2000 block of Delpha Drive where they found Ricardo Amezcua’s wife and three children, his eldest child being Francisco Amezcua. Francisco Amezcua had what appeared to be a fresh scrape to his left ear and red, swollen knuckles, police reported.
Although he initially denied knowing what happened to his uncle, Amezcua told police that he and his uncle left the house together and got drunk behind the Motel 6. Further investigation revealed that, after returning to Delpha Drive, Amezcua and Torres-Sanchez began arguing in the street. Amezcua told police that his father separated them, but that Torres-Sanchez continued to berate him with offensive and derogatory remarks, according to police reports.
An intoxicated Torres-Sanchez kept throwing punches at him, Amezcua said, so, wanting him to stop, he poked him with the knife, according to police reports.
In court on Wednesday, Amezcua’s attorney argued that the teenager should be granted probation because he had stabbed his uncle in self-defense, had been afraid of his uncle, is a victim of sexual abuse, and has depression as well as a low IQ.
Amezcua isn’t a “bad kid,” Raphael said. He’s a “sick kid.” The teenager, who had multiple disciplinary actions against him in high school, acted out only because he hadn’t been properly diagnosed and treated, he said.
“We as a society missed this one,” he said. Despite barely knowing how to add, Amezcua was never placed in an Early Intervention Program (EIP) and, he said, despite his behavioral problems he never was given a psychological examination.
Raphael argued that Amezcua was afraid of his uncle not only because he was under the impression that his uncle was a gang member but also because he had recently sexually abused him.
“You send this young man to prison, your honor, with his cherub face, his pimples … (and) he will be a lamb to the slaughter,” Raphael said. “He’s going to have to affiliate to survive.”
Dziadur said that there is no evidence that Amezcua was abused by his uncle or that Torres-Sanchez was affiliated with any gangs. Amezcua is the one with a prior record and gang affiliation, she said. The teen has had multiple chances to participate in programs and get help he needs, she said, but instead he refused help and failed to comply with his terms of probation.
Given his history, she said, there’s no reason to believe that Amezcua would comply with probation if granted.
Before Amezcua was sentenced, Torres-Sanchez’s sister, Maria Torres, gave a statement through a Spanish translator.
“I want them to tell the truth – what they’re saying about my brother is not true,” Torres said. Amezcua wasn’t sexually abused by Torres-Sanchez, she said. Torres-Sanchez wasn’t in any gangs nor did he ever carry a weapon, she said. “He needs to go to prison.”
Tisher said that, although she was initially open to probation in Amezcua’s case, upon learning about his juvenile record, including some of the inappropriate behavior and comments displayed at school, that she doesn’t have any reason to believe he will comply with probation.
He’s said nasty things to teachers, hit other students, punched girls in the chests and didn’t put any effort into school, she said. He may have felt vulnerable, but his father was present at the time and there was no need for him to stab Torres-Sanchez.
“I don’t think that you intended to kill him,” Tisher said, addressing Amezcua, “but that’s what happened.”
Tisher sentenced Amezcua to four years in state prison – three years for felony manslaughter plus one year for using a deadly weapon – due to his young age and, in part, his psychological evaluation. Amezcua was ordered to pay $10,712.60 restitution to his grandfather for funeral expenses.
He was also ordered to take part in counseling education with a substance abuse component while in prison. According to court records, he has a history of alcohol and methamphetamine use.