A jury convicted a Salt Lake County man on Thursday of killing his girlfriend three years ago.
James Raphael Sanchez, 26, was found guilty after a three-day trial in 3rd District Court of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice in the May 2011 beating death of his girlfriend, 44-year-old Angela Jenkins.
During closing arguments Thursday, Sanchez’s defense attorney, Ralph Dellapiana, asked the jury to find his client "not guilty," saying that Sanchez did not mean for Jenkins to die and that he made no attempt to clean up the crime scene — thus making him innocent of obstruction of justice.
"It’s clear to everybody here that James Sanchez beat her repeatedly," Dellapiana told the jury. "The only question before you, the jury, is did the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed murder?"
Dellapiana suggested that it might have been the level of methadone in Jenkins’ system that caused the woman’s death.
But prosecutor Michael Boem called that claim "ridiculous," saying that Sanchez intentionally — and repeatedly — struck the woman, and ultimately killed her.
"[Dellapiana said] his client didn’t mean to do it," Boem told the jury. "That’s like when a 3- or 4-year-old hits their brother or sister intentionally but says they didn’t mean to do it. [Jenkins] didn’t run into a wall. She didn’t fall down. He was hitting her. He was striking her. He intended to do all those things."
During an October 2011 hearing, Unified Police Detective Chad Reyes testified that Sanchez allegedly told him the bloody two-day assault was sparked by jealousy — that he thought Jenkins was "flirting" with his brother and may have been "carrying on an affair."
"He said [the assault] had gone further than he’d wanted it to go," Unified Police Detective Chad Reyes testified.
In that hospital interview, Reyes testified, Sanchez told the detective he had backhanded, kicked, bit and choked Jenkins. Reyes said Sanchez also put his hands in his girlfriend’s mouth and "pulled on her lips" causing what the detective described as "shocking" injuries.
"There wasn’t an area on her face that wasn’t darkened" by cuts and bruises, Reyes said.
Sanchez told the detective he had used methamphetamine in the days before the assault and was sharing methadone with Jenkins during the two-day attack in early May, according to testimony.
Sanchez revived Jenkins several times after she appeared to lose consciousness, but could not revive her a final time after he had placed his elbow and forearm across her neck as she lay on the ground, Reyes said.
At that point, Sanchez left the blood-spattered apartment the couple shared at 2230 E. 3300 South and called police from a 7-Eleven.
Police later found Sanchez at a friend’s home, where he was arrested and taken to a hospital to be treated for a methadone overdose and a diabetic problem.
When police told Sanchez that Jenkins had died, he "expressed great remorse," Reyes said, and asked the detective to kill him with his gun.
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