PROVO — A man who fatally stabbed his ex-wife's boyfriend after puncturing her lungs, told a 4th District Court judge he was ready to accept punishment for his actions — even spending the rest of his life in prison.
Jamie Velasco, 27, pleaded guilty Friday morning to amended charges of first-degree murder, first-degree attempted aggravated murder and two counts of third-degree domestic violence in the presence of a child.
The murder charge was formerly a capital murder charge — which carries the possibility of the death penalty. It was reduced to the current charges in a recent plea agreement with prosecutors that required Velasco to plead guilty and agree that all sentences be served consecutively.
Velasco will likely spend a minimum of 25 years in prison, said Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson.
Bryson said his office agreed to drop the capital charge because the victims and their families were not interested in revenge or the death penalty.
"They want accountability," Bryson said, "which is why we have done what we've done."
In February 2005, Velasco visited the home of his ex-wife, Laura Roholt, where he had previously lived, Bryson told the court. He waited until she arrived with her boyfriend, Fernando Barraza, then attacked them in the car.
He stabbed Roholt repeatedly then stabbed Barraza and slit his throat, Bryson said.
The couple's two young children, then 3 and seven months old, were in the back seat of the car during the assault — the reason for the two third-degree felony domestic violence charges.
Through his attorney, Richard Gale, Velasco told the court he never intended to harm the children, and that he wanted to take responsibility for his actions — a sentiment Gale said his client expressed often.
"Mr. Velasco . . . wanted me to inform the court . . . that he wants to pay for what he did," Gale said. "He wants to serve whatever sentence he deserves and if they decide that he needs to be there the rest of his life, at the prison, he will accept that."
Near the end of Friday's hearing, Velasco addressed the court.
"I want to take my responsibility," he said. "There is nothing I can do now to get (Barraza's) life back and fix what I did."
Judge Lynn Davis took painstaking care during the proceedings to ensure Velasco — a bilingual Mexican national — had the benefit of reading the charges and other court documents in both English and Spanish.
Gale affirmed each time that his client understood the charges and the sentencing consequences.
Roholt attended the hearing and said there had been some rocky history during their three-year marriage.
"There were violent episodes with us," she said. "(But) nothing I thought would take my life."
After the sentencing, Roholt agreed to speak with Velasco, separated by a glass window and under tight court security. Gale said his client wanted to tell his ex-wife that she didn't need to be afraid of him.
Roholt said she doesn't think about him much anymore.
"I am a lot happier with the life I have now," she said. "I'm a lot happier he's not in my life."
Velasco will be sentenced March 24 at 3 p.m.