A Salt Lake man admitted Tuesday that he killed a restaurant chef earlier this year and was subsequently ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Thomas E. Trujillo, 23, pleaded guilty to capital murder for the stabbing death of Victor Aguilar, 37, on March 3. In return for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend the life sentence instead of the death penalty."I think this (plea bargain) is a fair result based on the terrible, terrible tragedy that occurred to the Aguilar family," said 3rd District Judge Timothy Hanson. The West Valley father left behind a wife and four small children.
Trujillo, also known as Thomas Noff-singer, admitted to the judge that he and co-defendant Grant D. Stensrud, 21, were burglarizing Marie Callender Pies, 52 W. 200 South, in the early morning hours of March 3.
"He (Aguilar) came to work early," Trujillo said Tuesday.
"Was Mr. Aguilar killed in connection with that burglary in some fashion?" the judge asked.
"Yes," he replied.
Trujillo told police he and Stensrud were stealing the restaurant's safe when Aguilar surprised them. He said he grabbed a knife to protect Stensrud after Aguilar grabbed his partner. Aguilar also grabbed the knife, but when he let go, Trujillo cut him in the throat, according to his testimony.
"Tom appreciates the fact that he can live, although he took someone's life," said defense attorney Andrew Valdez.
He said his client has displayed "extreme remorse" for the killing and has struggled with questions the family has asked him about why Aguilar was killed. Following the sentencing, Valdez said Trujillo returned to his holding cell and cried.
In asking for a life sentence instead of the death penalty, Valdez told the judge that Trujillo had grown up in an environment of substance abuse. He said that since he was 12, his client had used LSD, alcohol, marijuana or speed "almost every day."
He had been drinking and using cocaine prior to the burglary and slaying.
Prosecutors also agreed to drop aggravated burglary and theft charges as part of the plea bargain. The judge ordered Trujillo to pay a yet-to-be-determined amount of restitution to the Aguilar family.
Stensrud, Trujillo's co-defendant, is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated burglary and theft in connection with the incident. He is scheduled to be tried in early February.
After police arrested Trujillo in the homicide, they discovered items in his apartment that may have belonged to a Sandy woman who has been missing since May 12, 1989.
Detectives say a purse believed to belong to Annette Hill was found. It had a "substance which appears to be blood on the outside of it," according to a search warrant. A pill bottle bearing her name was also recovered during the search of another apartment Trujillo lived in.
Deputy Salt Lake County Attorney Richard Shepherd said prosecutors tried to ask him questions about Hill's disappearance while preparing the plea bargain. "He basically said he didn't know anything," Shepherd said.
Valdez said the items belonging to Hill were found in an apartment that was frequented by numerous people and do not mean Trujillo necessarily had anything to do with her disappearance.