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Morrisville Stabbing, Beating Death Earns 19- to 40-Year Sentence

May 9, 2016


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

A Trenton man who fatally bludgeoned and stabbed a fellow landscaper with a crowbar and a screwdriver was sentenced today to serve 19 to 40 years in state prison.

Juan Villeda, 35, had pleaded no contest in November to third-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime in the Oct. 19, 2014, death of Jeronimo Villatoro, 38. The plea concluded a three-day homicide trial.

Villatoro’s skull was crushed by repeated blows from the crowbar, and his body had 33 stab wounds consistent with the use of a flat-head screwdriver. Eighteen of those wounds were to Villatoro’s face and head. He had an additional nine injuries to the chest area, including a fatal stab wound to the heart.

Villeda, who arrived from Honduras 11 years ago, had no prior criminal record. Through an interpreter, he blamed his actions on having been drunk at the time of the murder. “I am very sorry for what I did, and only God can forgive me,” he told Bucks County Judge Rea B. Boylan.

Calling the injuries “physical evidence that supports a brutal murder,” Boylan sentenced Villeda to serve 19 to 40 years for third-degree murder. She imposed a concurrent two- to five-year sentence for possession of an instrument of crime.

On April 1, Boylan had sentenced a second defendant, Erick Sarceno, 25, to serve seven to 20 years for voluntary manslaughter, possession of an instrument of crime, and concealing evidence. Sarceno had pleaded guilty and had testified against Villeda when his case came to trial.

Villeda and Villatoro had clashed in the past, and the victim allegedly once had threatened Villeda’s life. After a night of heavy drinking, prosecutors said, Villeda had lured Villatoro to Morrisville with the prospect of work that morning.

As the men rode together in a van driven by Sarceno, Villeda reminded Villatoro of the threats he previously had made. Villatoro, in turn, displayed a machete.  

When the van stopped in Morrisville, Villeda chased down and attacked Villatoro in the street, severely injuring him. After initially getting back into the van and leaving, Villeda ordered Sarceno to turn around. The vehicle returned to where Villatoro lay helpless. Villeda then attacked the victim again, killing him.

Sarceno was taken into custody immediately after the assault, but Villeda fled. U.S. Marshals arrested him more than two weeks later in Clifton Park, NY.

Defense attorney Steven Jones suggested that Sarceno had lied to minimize his role in the murder. Claiming that the two men were equally culpable in Villatoro’s death, Jones asked Boylan to give Villeda a sentence similar to Sarceno’s.

Deputy District Attorney Robert James countered that Sarceno had not physically assaulted Villatoro, and that he had no blood on his hands when police apprehended him. A flat-head screwdriver covered in Villatoro’s blood was recovered by investigators near the murder scene, tossed over a wall by Villeda after the assault.

James also noted that Villeda had lied repeatedly about his actions, ultimately admitting to have stabbed the victim only two times.

“We do not agree … that anyone else inflicted injuries” on Villatoro, James said. The victim’s “torturous” injuries, he said, demanded a lengthy sentence.

Approved for release by Michele Kelly Walsh, Deputy District Attorney.

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