Thursday, September 9, 2010

Former Navy sailor sentenced to decade behind bars for "love" triangle slaying

On Friday, September 3, Sixto Balbuena, a former Navy sailor who stabbed "romantic" rival Samuel Valdivia to death over the affections of their "girlfriend" and former teacher Tamara Hoffman, was sentenced to a decade behind bars. This sentence was the minimum Balbuena could have gotten after his conviction of 2nd degree murder - the max he could have got was 22 years. The trial started May 28, 2010 and ended June 4. The presiding judge in the trial was Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Whitten

Balbuena and the victim, 18 year old Valdivia, were both seduced by their former math teacher as students at separate high schools. Hoffman was teaching the then 17 year old Balbuena at Tempe, AZ's Marcos de Niza High School. She was fired after police caught Balbuena with Hoffman's bra in a parked car in November 2006 . She then went to Chandler's El Dorado High School and started a sexual relationship with 18 year olf Valdivia.

On April 9, 2009, Balbuena left Naval Air Facility El Centro in California, where he was an aircraft mechanic, at about 9 p.m., after finishing his shift, and headed toward Chandler to visit his fiancee, Hoffman, then 48.

Phone records show that they exchanged cellphone calls several times that night as he made the 4 ½-hour drive. But when he reached her house, according to the attorneys' statements, Hoffman did not answer the door or her cellphone. Balbuena opened the front door.

Inside, he heard noises coming from the bedroom. He grabbed a knife from the kitchen. Then, he told police investigators - one of whom testified Thursday - he saw a shadowy figure and they tussled. Seventeen minutes after he arrived, Balbuena called police. Prosecutor Jason Kalish played the 911 call, in which Balbuena says that "some guy" had been stabbed. Hoffman can be heard sobbing in the background.

When police arrived, they found Balbuena and Hoffman sitting calmly in the living room and wondered if either had been stabbed. An officer then found Valdivia, wearing only boxer shorts, moaning on the bathroom floor, his internal organs protruding from an abdominal wound.

Valdivia, who played for El Dorado's baseball team and wrote songs, died at the scene. After the conviction, Julio Valdivia, Samuel's older brother, said  "I don't know if he's going to pay enough. It's been tough. The pain is still there. I still feel like it happened yesterday. Sometimes, I feel like I need to talk to him. He made me think and kept me out of trouble." During the sentencing hearing, Balbuena said "I'm going to face them. I want to ask your forgiveness for all that has happened," but Valdivia's family did not believe he was sincere.

The victim's mother Placida Maldonado said  "He said he didn't mean to hurt him, but I don't believe that." The victim's brother-in-law Julio Laurean said "He's going to do 10 years, but we will do a lifetime...It felt like he was just trying to get out of the hole, that's how I felt."

Valdivia's relatives also believe that Hoffman had a part in the killing. "There are two victims here. One is dead and the other now behind bars," Maldonado said. A sister said that "She's truly at fault. She's crazy and should not have been dating boys. She was 48 years old and my brother only 18."

TheArizona Board of Education investigation of Hoffman saw her surrender her teaching certificate on December 7, but she can reapply within 5 years of the surrender. No criminal chargers were ever filed regarding Hoffman.

No comments: