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Suspect charged with murder and held without bail in "gruesome" Yakima stabbing

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FILE — A Yakima police officer drives along South Third Street in Yakima, Wash., in January 2020.

A 44-year-old man accused of killing his roommate Saturday is being held without bail.

In an unprecedented hearing Wednesday, Yakima County Superior Court Judge Richard Bartheld ordered Gilberto Guzman held without bail, noting the horrific nature of the killing of Gaspar Garcia Villicana, as well as a brutal 2004 rape Guzman committed in Grant County.

“There’s no question in this court’s mind that both these incidents ... demonstrated a callous disregard for humans,” Bartheld said. “The incident (Saturday) was particularly gruesome.”

Guzman is charged with second-degree murder in Villicana’s death at his home in the 1100 block of South 32nd Avenue.

Downstairs residents of the duplex reported a fight shortly after midnight in the upstairs unit where Villicana and Guzman were living. Police forced open the blood-smeared door and found Villicana, 42, dead in the living room, which Detective Kevin Cays told Bartheld was covered in blood spatter.

Neighbors told police that they heard a man moaning in their back yard, and officers found Guzman, who appeared intoxicated, stuck on the top of a fence, according to court documents. Guzman’s clothes were covered with blood, and he had a sheath on his belt for a fixed-blade knife similar to the one that had blood on it discovered on the walkway near Guzman, Cays said.

The evidence, including a trail of blood, indicated Guzman leaped from a balcony off Villicana’s bedroom to the back yard as he tried to flee the scene, Cays said.

Guzman also had wounds to his hands that Cays said were consistent with a knife slipping in the hands of someone using it.

An autopsy performed in King County found that Villicana was stabbed more than 100 times in his upper body, with more than 50 of the wounds to his head and neck, Cays said.

Yakima County Coroner Jim Curtice said Thursday the autopsy ruled Villicana’s death a homicide.

Under state law, criminal defendants are required to have the option to post bail unless they are either charged with a capital crime, face a sentence of life in prison or pose such a danger to the public that there are no other options for public safety. Bartheld said this was the first time in his memory that a such a hearing had been held in Yakima County.

Deputy Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Hart said Wednesday that he initially asked that Guzman be held without bail when he saw that the 2004 rape charge, to which Guzman pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, originally included an attempted murder charge after he reportedly held a woman he knew against her will, beat her repeatedly and raped her.

“He has demonstrated this time that he is capable of stabbing a friend approximately 100 times with a knife following a night of drinking,” Hart said.

But defense attorney Beth Wehrkamp argued that Guzman’s case did not fit the constitutional standard for denying bail because he is not charged with aggravated first-degree murder nor has he triggered the state’s “three strikes law” that requires a life-without-parole sentence if someone is convicted of a third “most serious offense.”

“The presumption of innocence should be afforded greater weight,” Wehrkamp said.

She also pointed to Villicana’s own criminal record, where he was accused of trying to stab his mother with a knife in 2016 and, failing to kill her, tried to kill himself. Villicana’s attempted second-degree murder charge was dismissed in that case after he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault, harassment and obstructing police and was sentenced to 17 months in prison.

But Cays said that while Villicana may have access to a knife in his home, the evidence suggested that Guzman was the attacker and his own wounds were not the result of fighting off someone.

Bartheld said the maximum statutory sentence for second-degree murder is life in prison, and Guzman could get that if prosecutors demonstrate aggravating factors in the case.

Villiacan’s death is the fourth homicide in the city this year, and the 10th in the county.

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