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Pa. man charged in stabbing to stand trial

August 05, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Chambersburg man charged with criminal homicide in a New Year's Day, 2002, stabbing could face life in prison after deciding Monday to take his case to trial rather than to accept a plea agreement.

Antonio Barcenas, 22, of 20 W. Washington St., was in the Franklin County Courthouse late Monday afternoon conferring with attorney Eric Weisbrod, but did not appear before Judge John R. Walker.

On July 14, Walker told Barcenas "the plea agreement is off the table and the case goes to trial" if he did not make up his mind by Friday, Aug. 1.

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Barcenas is charged in the stabbing death of Javier Brena-Lugo at 38 W. Queen St. Brena-Lugo, 31, of Zionsville, Ind., died of a single stab wound to the abdomen, according to court records.

Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Nancy Meyers did not indicate what Barcenas was offered in plea negotiations except that "it would have been less than a life sentence."

Conviction on a charge of first-degree, or premeditated, murder carries a mandatory life sentence without parole in Pennsylvania, according to state law. Second-degree murder, a killing committed in the course of another felony, also has a mandatory life sentence, according to state law.

The charge of criminal homicide leaves it open to a jury or judge to determine a degree of guilt ranging from first-degree murder to manslaughter, or acquittal, according to state law.

Included in that is third-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Under state law, the most a person can be sentenced to before being eligible for parole is half the maximum, or 20 years in prison.

The prosecution did not file a notice of aggravating circumstances in the case, so the death penalty is not an option.

Weisbrod declined to comment on the substance of the plea negotiations with his client.

Barcenas and Brena-Lugo had been among a group of people celebrating New Year's Eve, 2001, and into the next morning. According to Chambersburg police records, there had been an altercation at the West Queen Street house on the morning of Jan. 1.

Police allege that after the fight, Barcenas went to his house, got a knife, returned to the West Queen Street house and stabbed Brena-Lugo.

At the July 14 court appearance, Barcenas asked for all the documents relating to his case and the transcript of his preliminary hearing to be translated into Spanish.

During his preliminary hearing and subsequent court appearances, Barcenas required the services of a translator.

Meyers and Weisbrod said they will ask for a trial to be scheduled for the November trial term. Barcenes' case is currently scheduled for the September trial term.

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