A 31-year-old Merced man was sentenced to prison Thursday for stabbing a young mother to death last year in what authorities have described as a “completely senseless” slaying.
Oscar Saenz was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison by Judge Ronald W. Hansen in Merced Superior Court. He must serve 26 years before he’ll be eligible for his first parole hearing, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be granted a hearing at that time, prosecutors said Thursday.
Saenz last month was convicted of killing 21-year-old Brittany Dutra.
“There was absolutely no motive for it,” said Merced police Detective Joe Deliman, the lead investigator. “I just really feel for her family and hope this brings them a little closure.”
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Ilia McKinney, the Merced County deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said it was tragic for several reasons, most poignantly perhaps, was that Dutra was the mother of twin toddler girls.
“It’s sad because this could’ve been avoided,” McKinney said Thursday. “I’m satisfied with the sentence, but I wish we’d never have been here in the first place.”
McKinney said one of Dutra’s relatives spoke during Thursday’s hearing and told Saenz he not only deprived Dutra’s daughters of their mother, but noted he also deprived his own seven children of their father. The woman told Saenz his children would grow up knowing their father was in prison for murder.
Saenz’s attorney, Thomas Pfeiff, declined to comment Thursday but confirmed his client plans to appeal the verdict.
Dutra was stabbed to death around 3 a.m. July 9, 2015, inside a K Street apartment. Saenz, Dutra and others had been watching television when, according to witnesses, Saenz stood up and attacked Dutra with a “Rambo”-style knife. Saenz was arrested a few hours later near Lopes Avenue.
He told investigators he left the apartment before Dutra was killed. During the trial, his attorney argued the witnesses lied and suggested they “framed” Saenz, but jurors returned a guilty verdict after deliberating for less than one hour.
Dutra graduated in 2011 from Golden Valley High School.
Rob Parsons: 209-385-2482