Chambersburg man is sentenced in fatal stabbing

November 20, 2003|by DON AINES

As the brother of his victim looked on Wednesday in Franklin County Court, Antonio Barcenas was sentenced to 17 to 40 years in state prison for the Jan. 1, 2002, stabbing death of an Indiana man.

"I am very sorry for what happened and I ask the whole family to forgive me, especially the wife and two children who are now alone," Barcenas, 22, said through a translator.

Barcenas, of 20 W. Washington St. in Chambersburg, pleaded no contest Wednesday to a third-degree murder charge in the death of Javier Brena-Lugo, 31, of Zionsville, Ind. He waived his right to a pre-sentence investigation and received the prison sentence the prosecution and defense had agreed to under the plea.


In a letter written in Spanish to the court, Brena-Lugo's brother, Joaquin Brena of Chambersburg, asked Judge John Walker to "give him what is just so he pays for what he did."

Brena wrote that his brother's wife was left with the burden of raising his small children and the killing left "a desolate mother. Desolate because of the loss of her son."

Brena wrote that it was he who brought his brother from Indiana to spend Christmas and New Year's in Chambersburg.

"Who was to know he would find death here," Brena wrote.

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

"There was no physical altercation," Assistant Franklin County District Attorney Nancy Meyers said. She said Barcenas apparently was insulted during the confrontation.

After the incident, Barcenas went to his house, got a knife, went back to the West Queen Street house and stabbed Brena-Lugo once in the abdomen, according to police records. Joaquin Brena and a small boy witnessed the stabbing, Meyers said.

Barcenas was in court in August when Meyers and defense attorney Eric Weisbrod worked out a plea agreement. Barcenas did not agree to the plea and the case tentatively was scheduled for trial.

Neither Meyers or Weisbrod would disclose the terms of the previous plea agreement. Under Pennsylvania Law, the most Barcenas could have received for third-degree murder was 20 to 40 years.

Had he gone to trial, however, he faced the possibility of being convicted of first-degree murder, which has a mandatory life sentence without parole.

"This plea originated from my client," Weisbrod said. "The issue that was resolved was the issue of certainty ... without having to take the risk of a first-degree murder conviction if the case went to trial."

Meyers said a trial would have presented issues for the prosecution, as well.

"Obviously, there was the intoxication issue," she said. The defense could have argued that Barcenas was too drunk to form the requisite intent to kill necessary for a first-degree conviction, she said.

Because it was a no contest plea, Barcenas, who speaks little English, did not have to make a statement of guilt in court. While he will have to serve at least 17 years, Walker told Barcenas it will be up to the state board of probation and parole as to when he may be released.

"Adios amigos," Walker said as Barcenas was led from the courtroom.

The Herald-Mail Articles