Aaron Vargas sentenced to 9 years in prison

June 15, 2010 4:47:12 PM PDT
A 32-year-old Fort Bragg man who shot and killed the man who sexually abused him since childhood was sentenced to nine years in state prison Tuesday.

Aaron Vargas had pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter for killing Darrell McNeill last February. Vargas went to Mc Neill's home after a day of binge drinking with a Civil War reproduction revolver. Vargas claims he went to the home only to warn him to stop stalking him but that the gun somehow went off.

Vargas says the molestations began when he was 11 years old and continued through adulthood.

The case has generated widespread support for Vargas in his hometown of Fort Bragg where his family and members of the public have held rallies lobbying for his release on probation rather than prison time.

The District Attorney had asked for a conviction on first degree murder which carries a sentence of 50 years to life, but Vargas agreed to the plea bargain on voluntary manslaughter and special allegation charge of use of a firearm which could be punishable by a maximum of 10 years prison time.

Judge Ronald Brown heard two days of emotional impact statements from Vargas' family including his fiancée and a psychologist and psychiatrist. All testified that Vargas could lead a normal life with counseling for his alcoholism and PTSD symptoms.

"It would be a crime to send my brother to prison for a crime he didn't start but one he stopped," Vargas' sister Mindy Galliani told the court.

The prosecution contended that Vargas was still a dangerous risk to society.

In imposing prison time, Brown said he was convinced that it was premeditated murder and that "the method of killing intended to make the victim suffer." McNeill was shot in the stomach and died slowly as Vargas watched Vargas and told McNeill's wife Liz not to call 911 until he left the house.

Brown also said to grant probation, "would put the Court's stamp of approval on his action, the use of violence which would encourage more violence."

Vargas' family and friends openly wept as the judge pronounced sentence.

As he was led out of the courtroom, Vargas smiled to them and said, "I'll be writing a lot of letters from jail. I guess I'll become a writer."

He could be paroled and out in four years.

Vargas' lawyer told ABC7 he will look into an appeal but does not know if there are grounds to file.


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