MERCED -- A 61-year-old farm laborer accused of stabbing a fellow tenant to death will be sentenced to 12 years in prison, following a recent plea agreement with Merced County prosecutors.
Juan Salinas Albarran pleaded no contest on Wednesday to a charge of voluntary manslaughter for the May 3 stabbing death of Jose Vera, 44, at a residence in the 9500 block of Broadway in Planada, according to Deputy District Attorney Steven Slocum, the prosecutor in the case.
The charge included an enhancement for personal use of a deadly weapon. Albarran will be eligible for parole after serving 85 percent of his sentence.
Slocum said the prosecution decided to reach an agreement with Albarran because of evidence the combat between Albarran and Vera was mutual. Slocum said there was evidence both men had been drinking.
Albarran had claimed the victim had attacked him with a two-by-four. Deputies found a two-by-four at the scene. Other than Albarran and Vera, there were no witnesses to the fight, Slocum said.
Still, even if Albarran did kill Vera in self-defense, Slocum said the incident warrants prison time because the defendant used extreme force, stabbing the victim 20 times. Slocum said the excessive force went beyond what could be considered self-defense.
"We felt the manslaughter conviction was consistent with the evidence we have," Slocum said.
Slocum also pointed out 12 years was the maximum sentence Albarran could receive with a voluntary manslaughter plea.
Caleb Hegland, Albarran's attorney, maintained the killing happened in self defense, after his client and the victim had an argument. Still, Hegland said he was satisfied with the plea agreement, noting his client would have faced a maximum of life in prison, had he been convicted by a jury. "Based on the totality of the circumstances, it was a fair resolution," Hegland said.
Not everyone is pleased with the agreement. The victim's brother, Manuel Vera, 35, of Tracy said his family believes Albarran deserves a much longer sentence.
"We are not satisfied," Vera said. "This man stabbed my brother (several) times. How it is possible that he's only serving 12 years? He deserves 25 years to life in prison for what he did."
Detectives and attorneys said it's still unknown what sparked the argument between Albarran and Vera. Albarran had lived in a studio apartment behind the home where Vera lived, on the same property.
Detectives believe the fight began inside the home, continued in the yard and ended after the victim collapsed outside in a field behind the residence. After deputies found Vera, Albarran was contacted at a friend's Krafft Road home, about a mile away from the crime scene. He was planning to leave the area for Texas, detectives said.
Albarran admitted killing Vera with a kitchen knife, under questioning by Detective Jose Sanchez. Albarran claimed he grabbed a kitchen knife after the victim had swung the two-by-four at him. Albarran said he was able to grab the two-by-four from Vera and continue to stab him.
Albarran told the detective he kept stabbing Vera, even after he dropped the two-by-four.
Vera was unconscious when deputies arrived. Deputies performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the victim was taken by paramedics to Mercy Medical Center Merced, where he was pronounced dead.
Albarran is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Ronald Hansen on Oct. 24.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or email@example.com.