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Killer’s life in jury’s hands

Crime: Antonio Rodriguez, 29, faces the possibility of the death penalty; jurors decide next week

Posted: July 9, 2010 10:16 p.m.
Updated: July 10, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Parents who still shudder about the day 5-year-old Desarie Saravia’s body was dumped on a front lawn on their quiet cul-de-sac in Castaic say the man convicted of killing her deserves the sentence he now faces.

“He got what he deserves,” said Luis Corretjer, a father of three who lives on Sturbridge Drive. “Our kids are our most precious thing. That guy was a monster.”

Corretjer was referring to Antonio Rodriguez, 29, who is now one step closer to Death Row after being convicted of murdering, torturing and sexually assaulting Desarie Elizabeth Saravia on Nov. 12, 2004.

The jury — eight women, four men — delivered its verdict Thursday in San Fernando Superior Court, finding Rodriguez guilty of first-degree murder, torture, assault on a child causing her death, corporal injury on a child, child abuse and two counts of sexually penetrating the child with a foreign object.

The jury found Rodriguez not guilty of two counts of having forced a lewd act upon a child.

The body of Desarie was found Nov. 12, 2004, naked and lifeless on the front lawn of a Sturbridge Drive home. After several failed attempts were made there to save her, she was pronounced dead at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital a short time later.

Jurors, in their deliberations, had access to more than 100 exhibits showing in photographs how Desarie had been battered, whipped and burned.

Rodriguez was also found guilty of having assaulted Desarie’s brother Brian, then 6.

“The justice system is working,” said a Sturbridge mother who recalls the day Desarie was killed.

Caring community
Any visitor to this street is instantly reminded that children are placed at the core of this community’s values.

On the sidewalk by the lawn where Desarie was found six years ago is now a hopscotch game drawn in colored chalk.

On the other side of the lawn is a portable basketball net — one of several that seem to punctuate the driveways of every four to five houses there.

“They made the right decision,” said Patricia Kaiser, who testified at the Rodriguez trial about the day she went to the aid of young Desarie as the girl lay lifeless on her neighbor’s lawn and how she, a short time later, drove Desarie’s mother, Debby Saravia, to the hospital.

Debby Saravia was allegedly cleaning a house at the end of Sturbridge the day her daughter died.

She is expected to be tried separately in connection with her daughter’s death.

“I don’t know how anyone could hurt a kid,” said Corretjer, whose wife is pregnant with their fourth child. “Sometimes I cry when I see kids being injured in TV. Life is so delicate.”

He said he remembers the day his neighbors rushed to try and help Desarie.

“It was scary — scary and sad.”

His neighbor says she returned home from work the day Desarie died and was sickened by the news.

“You’re just sick to your stomach when you hear it, and you can’t believe it could happen,” said Marianne Pielow.

“It’s a terrible thing to happen,” she said, “but it sounds like he got what he deserved.”

Murder scene
Hasley Canyon Park, two streets over from Sturbridge, was vacant Friday afternoon, but the memory of that day persists.

The park is where Rodriguez sexually assaulted Desarie and then beat her so severely inside the 4-foot by 6-foot single-occupancy bathroom that she passed out.

She died after she was kicked or punched in the abdomen, causing internal injury.

Tara Manly, a mother who lives across from the park and who was weeding her garden Friday, said she and her family had just moved into the house when Desarie was murdered.

“You realize you’re not living in the bubble you thought you were,” she said. “But this community really came together after that. I don’t know if this (murder) caused that to happen, but the community is very close.”

“A lot of moms go to the park,” Manly said, “and they all really look out for each other.”

Inside the San Fernando courthouse District Attorney’s office Friday, prosecutor Mary Sedgwick said she could not comment on the verdict because the trial is now entering the death-penalty phase.

On Monday, the jury begins the process of deciding whether Rodriguez should be given the death penalty or face life in prison.



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