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Rodriguez to die for sex-killing of 5-year-old

Posted: September 2, 2010 12:49 p.m.
Updated: September 3, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Antonio Rodriguez sits in a San Fernando court room listening to testimony during his trial for the murder of Desarie Saravia. He was sentenced to death Thursday by Judge Ronald S. Coen.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Thursday formally sentenced Antonio Rodriguez to death for the rape and murder of 5-year-old Desarie Saravia in a Castaic park bathroom.

Antonio Rodriguez, 29, of Van Nuys, was sentenced Thursday in a San Fernando courtroom for the 2004 attack that killed Desarie Saravia. Her mother is expected to stand a trial of her own soon.

“I’m happy I got justice for Desarie,” prosecutor Mary Sedgwick said. “She was only 5 years old; she never had a chance.”

After several weeks of trial, a jury in July recommended the sentence after convicting Rodriguez of first-degree murder, torture and other charges.

“I think the brutality of the case kind of spoke for itself,” Sedgwick said. “The facts of the case were just horrible.”

Sedgwick said she expected Rodriguez to receive the sentence, but winning the murder case won’t bring back Desarie, she said.

“You wonder what she would have become,” Sedgwick said.

Prosecutors said Rodriguez brutalized Desarie and her 6-year-old brother for months before Rodriguez sexually assaulted and beat the girl in a restroom at Hasley Canyon Park on Nov. 12, 2004. He’d taken the children to the park while their mother reportedly cleaned a house nearby.

The girl was pronounced dead at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital after she was beaten, whipped and burned.

On Thursday, Rodriguez’s defense lawyers presented motions for a new trial, and another to reduce the death-penalty sentence to life with parole. The judge declined.

“It came as no surprise” to defense attorney Robert A. Schwartz that the judge didn’t reduce the sentence.

“We were hoping — we weren’t expecting,” Schwartz said.  

Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen said during sentencing that Rodriguez had extinguished the light of an angel.

Schwartz said he and defense attorney Jack R. Stone will pursue an appeal.

Stone’s ability to cross-examine the coroner “was extremely limited by the judge in the trial,” Schwartz said. “And we believe the judge should have given some of the jury instructions that we requested,” he said.

Desarie’s mother, 32-year-old Debby Saravia, is awaiting trial on murder, two counts of child abuse and two counts of corporal injury to a child. If convicted, she faces up to life in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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