Man sentenced to 2 life terms
Gustavo Martinez-Aquepucho will be 70 years old before he is eligible for parole.
The sentencing hearing for the 22-year-old foreign exchange student, who killed his 1-year-old son and the baby’s 19-year-old mother last year, was scheduled to last five days.
But after last-minute negotiations between attorneys Monday, Circuit Court Judge Locke Williams decreed that Martinez-Aquepucho would serve two life sentences for the murders and would not be eligible for parole until he has served 50 years in prison. The former Oregon State University student from Peru was 20 years old when he was arrested for the crime.
Martinez-Aquepucho averted the death penalty when he pleaded guilty Sept. 7 to two counts of aggravated murder for slashing the throats of his son, Theo Aquepucho, and the baby’s mother, Kelsey Baker, on April 29, 2011, in a residence they shared outside Philomath.
A narrative of the crime, based on investigators’ reports and the defendant’s confession, is outlined in court documents from the case.
On the day of the murders, Baker told Martinez-Aquepucho that she had had sex with another man and planned to move out. Martinez-Aquepucho attempted to buy a gun in Philomath. When that failed, he drugged his ex-girlfriend and son with cold medicine mixed in juice and baby formula, then slit their throats with a sharpened kitchen knife as they slept.
He then slit his own wrist; he later told authorities that he planned to die and join his victims in the afterlife. He passed out, and when he awoke hours later, he called 911.
For each count of aggravated murder, the prosecution and defense agreed to recommend to the court a sentence of life in prison with a possibility of parole after 30 years. However, the attorneys could not agree on whether the sentences should run concurrently or consecutively.
On Monday morning, they reached a compromise. Williams sentenced Martinez-Aquepucho to two life sentences and decreed that he serve at least 50 years before he is eligible for parole.
During the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Mark Sabitt described the contrast between the details of the crime and the positive comments about Martinez-Aquepucho in character references. Although the murders were gruesome, people who knew the defendant described him as a sensitive, compassionate young man.
“It’s unprecedented in my 25-plus years in court,” Sabitt said. “It’s a strange dichotomy.”
When it was Martinez-Aquepucho’s turn to speak, he described Baker and Theo as the two most important people in his life. He talked of Theo’s birth and his trip with Baker and Theo to visit his parents in Peru.
“The reason I’m telling you this is because I don’t think this case is about me as much as it is about Kelsey and Theo,” he said. “They were the most wonderful people. The world lost so much without them.”
He spoke of his remorse, guilt and loss, although he also referred to the murders as a “collapse of logic,” a phrase reminiscent of the defense’s forensic mental health evaluation. The report asserted that Martinez-Aquepucho could not be held legally accountable for his actions because he suffered a major depressive episode that distorted his mental health and left him unable to recognize the wrongfulness of his actions.
“It was not an act of anger but an act of desperation, hopelessness that I had,” Martinez-Aquepucho said. “I could see that I was losing my son forever. … All that was in my mind was that we were going to be happy and safe together as a family.”
Martinez-Aquepucho chose not to use a mental disease defense, Sabitt said in a later interview, because the District Attorney’s Office was insistent that if the case went to a jury trial, the state would seek the death penalty.
District Attorney John Haroldson noted at the hearing that aspects of the case were grisly and disturbing, but that, out of respect for the victims’ family, he would not go into detail about the murders. Instead, he held up a photograph of Baker and Theo when they were alive.
“The loss to the Baker family, not surprisingly, has been devastating,” Haroldson said.
Baker’s sisters had harsh words for Martinez-Aquepucho.
“I hope your misery eats away at you until you don’t have the will to open your eyes anymore,” Jordan Savage said. “I think you deserve a greater punishment than our legal system has given you. It is my hope that your mind punishes you in a greater way.”
Noelle Cummings lamented that sometimes it’s difficult to think about good memories of Baker and Theo because images of the brutal murders go hand in hand with the memories.
“When remembering my sister and my nephew, it’s impossible to forget how they died. It wasn’t an accident. It was an intentional, planned attack,” she said. “You took the life of not one but two innocent people — a mother and her infant child. You didn’t have that right; it wasn’t yours. You stole them from me, from my brother, from my sisters, from my family and friends.”
Before handing down his sentence, Judge Williams spoke to Martinez-Aquepucho.
“It’s difficult for the court to come to grips with your background and your seemingly very bright future,” he said, “that through your desperation you thought this was your only remedy, the only proper out, to take the lives of your loved ones.”
Gustavo Martinez-Aquepucho - ICE hold