Decapitation defendant found guiilty
Jonathan Benitez (20) will spend the weekend wondering what his punishment will be after jurors found him guilty of manslaughter late Friday afternoon.
Benitez was charged with killing 16-year-old Mandy Le. Evidence in court showed that Benitez was driving a Cadillac Escalade and swerving back and forth on the roadway. At some point, he struck a curb near the intersection of South Street and Fifth Street and the vehicle's mirror caught a guy wire pulling it taught. The impact threw Le towards the window and when the mirror broke the cable snapped back and caught Le's head. The girl's body was pulled partially out of the vehicle.
Prosecutors said that Benitez pushed Le's body out of the vehicle and told her sister to "get out" after driving several blocks.
Benitez sat stone-faced as the verdict was read and as each individual juror was polled. He faces between two- and 20-years in prison.
Judge John Stevens sent the jury home for the evening with instructions not to read or watch any television coverage of the trial. The jury will begin the punishment phase on Monday at 10 a.m. Several jurors were observed wiping tears from their eyes as the foreperson handed the verdict to the court bailiff for the judge to read.