Defendant scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 26th.
A Salvadoran national charged with the fatal shooting of a Frederick woman entered a plea on Tuesday. In Circuit Court, Jose Reyes Mejia-Varella pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder in the slaying of Jacinta "Patty" Ayala. She was found shot to death inside the Burger King on East Patrick Street in Frederick on the morning of March 18th, 2011. Ayala was the assistant manager and was there to open up the restaurant for business.
Sentencing is scheduled for February 26th, 2011. State's Attorney Charlie Smith says the prosecution plans to ask the judge for life in prison for Mr. Mejia-Varella. "The defense attorney discussed the case with us. They wanted to resolve it. We felt very strongly, due to the kind of senseless murder, that he should spend the rest of his life in jail. So we were not willing to compromise the case for anything less than the ability to argue for life," says Smith.
Under the plea agreement, the judge is not bound to sentence Mejia-Varella to life in prison, but Smith says the State will argue vigorously for life during sentencing.
He says the motive for this murder was robbery. There was no forced entry into the restaurant that morning, and authorities believe Mejia-Varella entered through the ductwork in the roof. Mejia-Varella was inside the building and had tried opening the safe when Ayala came in. "He was lying in wait essentially, for her to get there. She opened up the safe. At that point in time, we believe, she had been shot," Smith says. "There were some personnel who came in after that, observed her lying in a puddle of her own blood. They could not resuscitate her."
During the plea hearing, many of Ayala's family members were in the court room, and they were very emotional when prosecutors read the facts of the case into the record. "Especially the father of her children," Smith says. "He was crying the whole time. Of course, having to hear the fact that the mother of his children was put to death by the use of a 380-caliber semi-automatic pistol and shot in the back of the head was just something that was very difficult for the whole family."
Patty Ayala leaves behind a husband and two children.