It took a jury less than 30 minutes Thursday to find Javier Righetti guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 stabbing death of a 15-year-old Las Vegas girl.
Earlier in the day, Chief Deputy District Attorney Michelle Fleck had described the crime as “the personification of every parent’s worst nightmares.”
Prosecutors now plan to seek a death sentence for Righetti, who was 19 when he committed the murder. The trial’s penalty phase is set to begin Friday morning.
Alyssa Otremba, a freshman at Arbor View High School, was less than 300 yards from home when she was raped, mutilated and killed. She had been stabbed more than 80 times.
If sent to Nevada’s death row, Righetti would be the youngest man in one of the solitary cells in upstate Ely.
Righetti showed little emotion as the verdict was read, but he already had pleaded guilty to the murder a year ago.
He pleaded guilty to 10 counts — including first-degree murder with a deadly weapon, first-degree kidnapping and sexual assault with a child — in Alyssa’s death, but the Nevada Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court decision rejecting his plea on the murder charge.
On that count, the plea lacked an admission that the killing was premeditated, which prosecutors said should have been included. Such an admission allows prosecutors to ask the jury to consider more factors regarding the severity of the crime when weighing Righetti’s sentence.
In her closing arguments Thursday, Fleck used Righetti’s hourlong confession to Las Vegas police to show jurors that the crime met all the justifications for a first-degree murder conviction.
“This is not a whodunit,” she said. “There was an avalanche of evidence in this case, and that’s before we get to the chilling confession.”
Righetti’s defense did not present closing arguments. After the jurors left the courtroom to deliberate, however, Deputy Public Defender Christy Craig asked District Judge Michelle Leavitt how much she could tell the jury about Righetti’s stricken guilty plea.
“To this day we’re not sure what the court is going to let us explain to the jury,” Craig said.
The fact that Righetti already had taken responsibility for the murder should act as a mitigating factor during the trial’s penalty phase, she said.
Leavitt ruled that she did not want the jury wading into the murder plea and the complicated legal battle that ensued. Jurors have not heard about Righetti’s pleas to the other charges.
“That is a 19-page decision. Someone’s going to get up and explain that to the jury?” Leavitt said. “I thought he might come in and plead guilty after the Supreme Court rendered its ruling, but he didn’t.”