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Delgado guilty in slaying

July 13, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - After Miguel Delgado was found guilty of first-degree murder and ordered to serve life in prison without a chance for parole, family members of Robyn Renee Richardson said Monday they can rest easier.

And they are not the only ones.

"She can finally rest peacefully," Autumn Thompson said of Richardson, her sister. "We're very happy we're finally getting some closure. It's a relief."

On Monday afternoon a jury of seven men and five women found Delgado guilty of strangling and stabbing Richardson 23 times on June 15, 2001. Jurors deliberated for two and a half hours before reaching the verdict.

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Jurors also had the options of finding Delgado guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of voluntary manslaughter or not guilty.

Delgado showed no visible reaction as a clerk read the verdict.

Moments later, as jurors walked back into a secluded room to decide whether to grant mercy, everyone in the courtroom stood except for Delgado. He mouthed something in the direction of the jurors as they left.

He showed no reaction when a clerk announced that jurors did not grant mercy, a verdict that means Delgado will spend the rest of his life in prison without a chance for parole. Jurors spent 30 minutes debating whether to grant mercy.

Martinsburg Police Department Sgt. Kevin Miller, who said he could not guess how many hours he and other officers invested in the case, pumped his fist as the jury's no-mercy verdict was read.

"It's been a long time coming. A lot of work has been put into this case," Miller said.

Detective Sgt. George Swartwood agreed.

"I'm very thankful and grateful for the verdict, especially for the family," he said.

Thompson and Richardson's mother, Kathleen Cressell, said they plan to address Delgado on Aug. 13, when he will be sentenced formally by Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely credited the verdict to tireless efforts by police officers and the willingness of witnesses to keep in touch with authorities over the past three years.

The trial for Delgado, 36, began last Wednesday and wrapped up Monday morning with jury instructions and closing arguments. Delgado did not testify.

Defense surprise


Reached after the verdict, defense attorney Michael Santa Barbara said he was surprised and disappointed.

"He (Delgado) has steadfastly maintained his innocence" and wants to extend his condolences to the Richardson family, Santa Barbara said. "He just wants to express that he didn't do it."

Delgado is considering filing an appeal and may ask that a new attorney or new attorneys be appointed to represent him, Santa Barbara said.

Santa Barbara, handling his first murder case, expressed concern over the testimony of Tracy Cardona, one of the state's key witnesses.

In his closing argument to jurors, Santa Barbara said that Cardona could have killed Richardson.

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," he said.

Santa Barbara suggested that Cardona had a motive, having discovered they both were dating the same man.

Santa Barbara said three days after the slaying she took Delgado's Chevrolet Blazer and drove several hours to family in Massachusetts.

"She fled the scene of the crime," Santa Barbara said in his closing argument. "She then had eight hours to come up with her story."

'Not a woman scorned'


Games-Neely said neither Cardona nor any of the state's other witnesses had a reason to lie.

"This is not a woman scorned," she said in her closing argument rebuttal.

When she testified last week Cardona said she chatted with Richardson online and that neither cared they both were dating Delgado. They planned to go to a pool together but never had the chance to meet in person, she testified.

Cardona said that early on June 16, 2001, Delgado woke her and said he had just stabbed and killed Richardson. Details in her story matched evidence found at the scene by police.

During her closing argument Games-Neely reviewed the testimony of each witness, saying the mention of a white Chevrolet Blazer was "a consistent thread."

A man who lived in the same Moler Avenue apartment complex as Richardson said he saw a white Blazer parked outside Richardson's apartment the night of the murder.

Another woman said she was visiting her mother that night and looked out of a kitchen window after hearing two popping sounds and a scream. She said she saw a light-skinned man run from a grassy area and leave quickly in a white Blazer.

Richardson's body was found the next morning in that grassy area between two apartment buildings, and Delgado owned a white Blazer.

DNA testing confirmed that blood found inside the Blazer was Richardson's.

Santa Barbara said the blood, a small spot found on the inside driver's side door, could have come from a shaving nick on Richardson's leg. Delgado had previously taken Richardson to work.

Games-Neely argued otherwise.

"There is no other reason for it to be there unless it came from Miguel Delgado after this particular event," she said.

Arguing the murder was premeditated, Games-Neely said that Delgado grabbed a steak knife from Richardson's kitchen, chased her out of her apartment, strangled her and stabbed her repeatedly.

"Murder was done by Miguel Delgado," she told jurors. "This is a wicked and depraved heart. This is a person bent on violence."

Games-Neely later shared the thought running through her mind as the verdict was read.

"Justice. It's been a long time. This is justice," she said.

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