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Teen sentenced for role in 2005 stabbing death

July 13, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

A tissue was placed in the hands of Ivette Hernandez on Wednesday as she sobbed in Washington County juvenile court and spoke about what she sees as injustice for her only son's death.

Circuit Judge John H. McDowell, sitting in juvenile court, ordered Wednesday that a 15-year-old boy who admitted to involuntary manslaughter for his role in the December 2005 stabbing death of Eliezer Rodriguez, 22, be placed at an out-of-state secure juvenile institution.

The maximum penalty for any youth found involved in a delinquent act is placement outside of their home until age 21. McDowell ordered the teenager not be released from the institution, the location of which has not been determined, without his order.

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McDowell told Rodriguez's family before announcing his decision, "There is no way to replace the loss of life, particularly the life of a man so young. We have another young man here who has admitted to involuntary manslaughter and there are limitations through the juvenile system about what can be done. This does not minimize the pain, the loss, the suffering of the victim."

The teen, who originally was charged as an adult in the fight, could be sent to one of three secure institutions: Mesabi Academy in Minnesota, Mid-Atlantic Youth Services in Pennsylvania or Southwest Indiana Regional Youth Village in Indiana.

With last year's closure of the state's most secure institutional placement option - the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School - it became necessary for the department of juvenile services to seek an out-of-state institutional placement, said Bob Weaver, assistant area director, Region III, of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services.

The teen and co-defendant Angel Teodoro Villatoro, 36, originally were charged with first-degree murder in Rodriguez's Dec. 10, 2005, stabbing death during a street fight in the 100 block of West North Avenue.

Villatoro is awaiting sentencing pending the completion of a court-ordered background investigation. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and first-degree assault for his role in the fight.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler has said Villatoro stabbed Rodriguez's stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez, during the fight and that the teen participated in the fight but did not have a knife.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil said Wednesday that the teen's punishment "is appropriate" for his involvement in the fight. He said an arrest warrant has been issued for a third suspect, Oscar Villatoro, on charges in connection with the stabbing, but authorities have not found him.

Hernandez told the judge that she did not think punishment was fair for those involved in her son's death.

Her brother, Edwardo Hernandez, translated her words spoken in Spanish: "Nobody's going to pay or replace what happened to her son. That was her only boy. There (is) no mercy for him. He was drunk and he was defending himself."

Ivette Hernandez, wearing a white T-shirt bearing her son's picture, started speaking quietly to her brother through tears, but the petite woman's voice gradually grew louder, her sobs more intense. Jill Ritter, director of the Victim Witness Unit for the Washington County Office of the State's Attorney, placed tissues in the woman's hands, which were clasped tightly behind her back. She didn't bring her hands to her face.

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