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Trenton Man Sentenced to State Prison for Role in Beating Death

April 1, 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Robert James, 215.348.6332, rdjames@buckscounty.org

A Trenton man who stood by while his mother’s boyfriend fatally beat and stabbed another man in Morrisville was sentenced today to serve seven to 20 years in state prison.

Erick Sarceno, 25, had pleaded guilty in November to voluntary manslaughter, possession of an instrument of crime, and concealing evidence in the Oct. 19, 2014, death of Jeronimo Villatoro, 38.

The man who killed Villatoro, Juan Villeda, had quarreled with the victim inside a van Sarceno was driving. All three had been out drinking for several hours before Villeda and Villatoro exited the van and fought along a Morrisville street.  

Villeda, who beat Villatoro with a crowbar and stabbed him with a screwdriver, pleaded no contest to third-degree murder in November, ending a three-day trial. Sarceno testified against Villeda during the trial.

“This was a brutal and violent murder,” Bucks County Judge Rea B. Boylan said before imposing the sentence. “I have never seen more damage done to the head of a human being” in any criminal case she has heard.

“Mr. Sarceno was a participant in this act,” the judge said.

While Sarceno did not physically assault Villatoro, he drove the van in which the men were riding. He witnessed the assault after Villeda and Villatoro got out of the van, and drove away with Villeda after the initial attack.

At Villeda’s bidding, Sarceno then drove the van back to where Villatoro lay helpless. Villeda attacked Villatoro again, killing him. Sarceno took the crowbar used in the attack back to the van, and drove away again.

Villeda escaped on foot and eventually traveled to New York, where authorities arrested him. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Boylan on May 9.

Without Sarceno’s involvement, “Jeronimo Villatoro would still be alive today,” said Deputy District Attorney Robert James, who prosecuted the case.

James read a letter in court written by Villatoro’s sister, who described her brother as a hardworking man who sent $300 each month to help support his mother and their family in their native Honduras. “They killed my brother, the only family I have in the United States,” the letter said.

Defense attorney Niels Eriksen said that Sarceno, the eldest of six children, also worked hard and sent money to his siblings in Guatemala. He said that Sarceno had no record of criminal convictions.

Eriksen said that Sarceno had been so intimidated by Villeda, who was in a relationship with Sarceno’s mother, that he failed to stop the assault and initially lied to investigators before cooperating.

“I was there, but I did not participate” in the murder, he told Boylan through an interpreter. “I did not know what was going to happen.”

The judge, however, said she had “heard nothing to suggest that (Sarceno) was coerced into doing these things.” She said she was “quite troubled” that he minimized his role in the crime.

Approved for release by Daniel B. Sweeney, Deputy District Attorney.

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