A San Mateo construction worker wept as he was sentenced Thursday in San Mateo County Superior Court to 16 years to life in the 2004 slaying of a 26-year-old smuggler.
Cesar Agusto King, 28, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the June 30, 2004, slaying of Samuel Vasquez, a smuggler or “coyote” who transported people across the U.S.-Mexico border from his native Guatemala.
King rented a room in a two-bedroom apartment on South Idaho Street, owned by relatives of Vasquez, who also lived at the apartment. Vasquez arrived June 29, 2004, with a 17-year-old Guatemalan woman he had helped smuggle across the border, according to prosecutors.
Vasquez and King reportedly began drinking heavily in the apartment and continued the next morning, when they began arguing. A fight ensued, and a bruised and beaten King fled the apartment, returning two hours later to murder Vasquez, according to Deputy District Attorney Joe Cannon.
Because King was found guilty of second-degree murder, there is a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life, according to Cannon.
The only thing the judge had to decide Thursday was if the year sentence for the enhancement of using a deadly weapon would be served consecutively or not, Cannon said. King’s attorney Patrick Concannon asked that the two sentences be served concurrently.
In King’s probation report he wrote that his “American dream has turned into a nightmare,” according to Judge Craig Parsons. However, Vasquez’s life “turned into more than a nightmare,” Parsons said.
“This was a callous act, a cowardly act,” Parsons said of the killing.
During the trial prosecutors brought witness testimony and forensic evidence to support the theory that when King returned to the apartment he murdered a drunken and passed-out Vasquez by striking him in the head with a 2-by-6 board, fracturing his skull.
Before Parsons issued his sentence, a visibly shaken King addressed the court and apologized for his actions.
“I feel so sorry for everything that happened,” King said. He managed to say, “It was one day of my life, I have three daughters,” before he broke down again.
Vasquez is survived by his wife and two children, ages 3 and 5, according to Cannon. His wife was present for the sentencing along with other members of his family.
King will have to serve 13½ years before he is eligible for parole, Cannon said.
— Bay City News