Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Man sentenced to life for crucifix beating of "girlfriend"

A man who beat his then girlfriend with a crucifix on her birthday just before Christmas last year was sentenced to life yesterday, October 6. Guatamalan immigrant Carlos Ovalle, 33, beat his "girlfriend" and mother of their two daughters Ana Valdez on December 23 of last year, using a crucifix which weighed at least five pounds and sat two feet high. It took a Takoma Park, MD police officer's shot to stop the attack. According to doctors, it took doctors almost an hour to pick out ceramic shards of the crucifix from Valdez's wound. Ovalle was convicted after a jury trial in July.

Ovalle and Valdez met in their native Guatemala. After moving to the United States, he started hitting her, Valdez and prosecutors said. At times, she avoided telling police because Ovalle threatened her, Valdez wrote. She did report him to police at other times, and he was locked up at least twice, according to court records.

On Dec. 21, Valdez's 23rd birthday, Ovalle slipped into her Takoma Park apartment. She arrived home with her girls, smelled cigarette smoke, thought it unusual and began looking around. Ovalle jumped out of a closet, a knife in his right hand.

"Happy birthday. I have your present," Ovalle said, according to Valdez's testimony. "Tonight you're going to die."

After Ovalle choked then pulled the crucifix from a wall and started to beat her, Valdez stalled by asking her attacker (and father of her daughters, now 4 and 5) to put a Barbie DVD in a DVD player to distract the children from watching the assault.

Takoma Park police Officer Angela Donovan answered the call of a woman crying. Ovalle tried to order his victim to say everything was alright, but Officer Donovan, sensing something wasn't right, forced her way inside to see Ovalle holding a knife to Valdez' throat. After Ovalle refused to drop the knife, Donovan shot him twice. One of the bullets hit Valdez after passing through Ovalle.

The victim impact letter Valdez submitted to Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Durke G. Thompson stated in part:

"He believed that by committing this act against me he was going to end me. Hopefully, what he did and has done was to put me on the right track to reinforce my strength to keep going with my life."

Against the advice of his attorney, Ovalle stated that Valdez lured him to the United States using a false pretence about pregnancy. "I do accept that I did make a mistake, but she provoked me. And I was drunk when I assaulted her."

Judge Thompson set the perpetrator straight. "There is no doubt in this court's mind that you intended to kill Ms. Valdez...It's not Ms. Valdez's doing that brought you to this court. It is your own."

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