Murderer faces sentencing with support of community


Aaron Vargas' supporters came from Fort Bragg to the Mendocino County courthouse in Ukiah to rally around the 32-year-old at his sentencing hearing.

Among his supporters was Richard Masingale, whose younger brother committed suicide after revealing that he too was molested by the same man who abused Vargas.

"I wish my little brother would have shot him when he planned to himself," Masingale said. "This young man shot the man instead of himself. So until we can get closure to our life, this boy has to be released."

Vargas says he was raped repeatedly as a child by the man he shot to death, 63-year-old Darrell McNeill. Vargas says the sexual abuse continued even after he became an adult.

On February 8, after a heavy night of drinking, Vargas went to McNeill's home and shot him to death in front of his wife Liz. Vargas was arrested later that night at his parents' house.

Many in Fort Bragg, including McNeill's family, have come to his defense at rallies. An online petition for leniency now has more than 4,000 signatures from around the world.

The District Attorney had asked for a first degree murder conviction, which carries a sentence of 50 years to life.

In April, Vargas pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter, which could give him a lighter sentence of up to 10 years. But his supporters are asking for probation.

"What he needs is help. He would undergo more abuse in prison, so really our justice system that failed him would be finishing what Darrell McNeill started," Vargas' sister Mindy Galliani said.

Vargas' fiancée Selena Barnett is the mother of his 2-year-old child. She says her family and his relatives will make sure he goes through heavy duty counseling.

"My whole family is completely 100 percent behind supporting and getting him home to us," she said. "My little girl needs her daddy back. He's nothing but a fabulous dad."

The hearing continues Tuesday with more testimony -- much of it expected again to be emotional. When that is over, the judge says he will impose the sentence from the bench.

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