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THOUSAND OAKS : Youth Pleads Guilty to Avoid 2nd Trial

A 17-year-old Mexican immigrant pleaded guilty Monday in Ventura County Superior Court to charges that he stabbed a Thousand Oaks nurseryman to death last spring “in the heat of passion,” according to the charge.

A jury found Jose Luis Navarro not guilty last week of first-degree murder in the slaying of Jose Narvaez, 49. But Judge Charles R. McGrath declared a mistrial when jurors announced that they were deadlocked 7 to 5 in favor of acquitting Navarro of second-degree murder.

Navarro decided to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and use of a deadly weapon because he wanted to avoid another trial, said his lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Steve P. Lipson.

“I saw him Friday and he said he thought about it from . . . when the partial verdict came in and he said he didn’t want to go through another trial,” Lipson said.

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Navarro testified at his trial that he had sodomized Narvaez on the night of April 19. But he told jurors that he stabbed Narvaez in self-defense when Narvaez tried forcibly to sodomize him.

Narvaez was stabbed once in the stomach and three times in the back with a 9 1/2-inch butcher knife.

Several of the jurors believed that “there was an element of self-defense” in the slaying, Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard E. Holmes said Monday. “The vote of the jury was five for second-degree murder and when you don’t have a majority on the first go-round there’s going to be obvious difficulties to get all 12 on the second” trial, Holmes said.

Holmes said Navarro faces four to 12 years in state prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 7.

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Navarro was in this country illegally and faces certain deportation upon his release from prison, Holmes said.


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