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Midvale man who strangled common-law wife headed to prison

Published June 7, 2012 1:43 pm

Court • Defendant, who could spend up to 25 years behind bars, says he reached his limit.
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West Jordan • A Midvale man who strangled his common-law wife because he believed she was having an affair has been sent to prison for up to 25 years.

Carlos Soto-Lopez killed his wife, 26-year-old Sandra Paulina Hernandez, in May 2010. With his attorney arguing a defense of extreme emotional distress, Soto pleaded guilty earlier this year to a reduced count of manslaughter. He also pleaded to two third-degree felonies for killing the woman with their two young children home at the time.

Third District Judge Charlene Barlow sentenced Soto to up to 15 years on the manslaughter charge and up to five years on each of the other two counts. She ordered the sentences to run consecutively.

In court, Soto asked for forgiveness and for the slain woman's family to care for his daughters, now 10 and 7.

"I'm going to pay whatever I have to pay for this," he said. "Whether I'm there 100 years or 1,000 years it's not going to bring her back. If I spend the rest of my life in there, it's only going to destroy what little is left of my daughters."

Defense attorney Ralph Dellapiana said Soto had been concerned about his wife's affairs and, when she admitted to being with another man one day after several days away, it was more than Soto could bear, the attorney said.

"I try to fix everything all by myself," Soto said through an interpreter. "Nobody is infallible. Everything has a limit, whether it's a piece of metal or a computer, everything has a resistance limit. If we don't do something to lighten the load, something as big as this tragedy could happen — something as big as this immense loss."

Barlow acknowledged Soto took responsibility for the crime from the beginning.

When police arrived at his apartment, Soto walked outside and told them he had killed his wife. Police found Hernandez had been hit on the side of the head with a glass blender pitcher, which caused the pitcher to shatter. A cellphone charging cord was wrapped around her neck. Soto told police he covered her body with pillows and a blanket so his daughters would not see it. But Barlow said Soto had been self pitying in his comments throughout the case.

"His remorse is more for himself than anyone else," she said.

Hernandez's family said Soto had been controlling and abusive throughout the relationship. They blamed him for hurting the daughters he called his "princesses."

"A mother cannot be replaced," Orquidia Hernadez, the woman's sister, said. "Those little girls will be with their grandmother and with me. But no matter how much love we give them, it will never be enough."

afalk@sltrib.com