Calling his crimes "depraved" and "appalling," a Salt Lake County judge sentenced James Raphael Sanchez to two consecutive terms of 15 years to life in prison for kidnapping and murdering his girlfriend three years ago.
After a three-day trial in May, a jury said there was no doubt that Sanchez, 26, brutally beat his girlfriend, 44-year-old Angela Jenkins, over the course of two days in 2011. Jenkins died of "blunt force trauma and strangulation," according to court documents.
"This woman suffered enormously at your hands over an extended period of time," 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg told Sanchez during sentencing on Monday. "The injuries she sustained were appalling."
After he was sure Jenkins was dead, Sanchez rinsed her body with bathwater and scrubbed her with hydrogen peroxide and towels in an effort to conceal evidence of the crime at the apartment the couple shared at 2230 E. 3300 South, according to prosecutors and court documents.
Sanchez received the second sentence of 15 years to life for kidnapping Jenkins less than two weeks before murdering her. Defense attorney Ralph Dellapiana said he was disappointed the judge ordered the sentences to be served consecutively rather than concurrently. But Lindberg said the brutality of the crime called for a harsh sentence.
Sanchez snapped when Jenkins refused to stop having sex with Sanchez’ older brother, which amounted to a "double betrayal," Dellapiana said. Lindberg had refused to allow Dellapiana to pursue a defense of extreme emotional distress, which could have resulted in a reduced verdict of manslaughter, Dellapiana said.
"It was a legal error that I believe should be reversed on appeal," Dellapiana said.
Both Sanchez and Jenkins were heavy drug users, often smoking crystal meth and using needles he received for his diabetes treatment to inject themselves with methadone, according to a friend.
Cindy Weese said Sanchez’ life was derailed by drugs even before he used them himself. His father and older brothers have done time for drug offenses, and his mother died of a heroin overdose when he was eight years old, Weese said. He has been intermittently homeless ever since.
When Sanchez was nine, Weese found him on the back porch of her Salt Lake City apartment. He was hungry and frightened, Weese remembered, and accepted her offer of a hot meal. He would go on to stay at her apartment off and on for nine years.
"He’s had a hell of a life," said Weese, now 58. "He had to live on the street to survive."
Weese offered a different picture of Sanchez than the heartless killer prosecutors portrayed in court. She said Sanchez took care of her through five foot surgeries and would often bring her candy, which she loved.
"That’s my son. I never seen him angry," Weese said, adding that she was too heartbroken to attend Sanchez’ sentencing. "I just couldn’t go to his hearing. It just killed me. I loved that boy dearly."
Jenkins’s mother, Denise Doebbeling, asked Judge Lindberg to hand down a harsh sentence.
"When [Jenkins] let [Sanchez] move in with her, she said, ‘Well, I just want to take care of him because he had a poor childhood.’ It was hard to believe she suffered such mistreatment — hours of kicking to make sure she was dead," Doebbeling said.
Then, turning to Sanchez, she added: "I hope that you spend the rest of your life in prison."
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