Illegal alien pleads guilty in rape, murder

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2007

COURTLAND—An illegal alien pleaded guilty Tuesday to the May 2006 rape, robbery and murder of a woman who was working as a cook for a group of men in a trailer at Southampton Meadows trailer park.

Bernardino Munguia &uot;Queenie&uot; Tolentino will serve the rest of his life in prison as a result of the plea agreement, which spared him the possibility of the death penalty for the capital offenses.

&uot;This was an appropriate outcome for this case,&uot; Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke said after the two-hour hearing, which required an interpreter to translate the proceedings and documents into Spanish for the defendant.

Circuit Court Judge Westbrook J. Parker sentenced the 27-year-old Tolentino to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the charges of murder in the commission of a robbery and murder in the commission of a rape, both capital offenses. Following the terms of the plea agreement, he also sentenced the man to 25 years for the rape charge and 20 years for the robbery charge.

Tolentino showed little emotion during the hearing, listening through headphones to the words of his translator as the hearing proceeded, responding in Spanish whenever he was asked a question.

During the prosecutor’s presentation of evidence, Tolentino briefly looked at police photos of the scene and of the 23-year-old woman, who also was in the country illegally.

He listened without expression as Cooke described how police found Nora Guatzozon dead on the floor of a bedroom in the trailer where she had been staying for just a few days before her death.

She had been strangled with a phone charger’s cord, which was tightened around her neck with a spoon that was later found to have fingerprints that matched Tolentino’s. DNA evidence removed from under her fingernails and from her body was consistent with that of the defendant and proved that she had fought him and that he had raped her.

Although Tolentino originally implicated another man in the attack, Cooke said in court that lab tests had eliminated that man and others as potential suspects.

During an interview with police in his trailer near the crime scene several days after the murder, Tolentino admitted that he had gone to the woman’s trailer with the intention of killing her and stealing her money. He took $100 from her purse after raping and strangling her, Cooke said in court.

The defendant responded quietly and with single syllables to the judge’s questions throughout the hearing. He declined to speak when offered the chance prior to being sentenced, and he was lead from the courtroom without incident, hands clasped in front of him.