An outburst during the plea hearing for the man accused of stabbing another man to death at Red Hawk Casino led to the victim’s family being escorted from the Courthouse Friday morning.
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El Dorado County Judge James R. Wagoner informed Estephen Juarez that the complaint against him had been amended to be a charge of voluntary manslaughter, making him ineligible for probation.
Chief Assistant Deputy Attorney Bill Clark told the court that the plea bargain was a result of a “thorough evaluation of all the evidence” and determining the likely outcome of a jury trial would be a voluntary manslaughter conviction.
Wagoner noted that the maximum Juarez could be sentenced to was 11 years in a state prison with over $20,000 in fines, but he intended to impose the minimum in both sentence and fines. Supervised release after the sentence is served would be determined at a later date. He also noted that Juarez had been on two other probations at the time he committed the crime. This would also count as a “strike” due to being a serious or violent felony, meaning he would only receive 15 percent time credit.
The judge then asked how Juarez would plead the to crime of, as a result of a “sudden quarrel, in the heat of passion,” the voluntary manslaughter of Gene McArn on Nov. 21, 1012.
“No contest,” Juarez quietly said. He then admitted to the two violations of probation and to prior offenses.
The mother of the victim, Kara McArn, was then given the opportunity to read a victim impact statement she had prepared.
“When the defendant…murdered our son, he tore our hearts,” she said, affecting brothers, sisters and parents. She told the court that a brother of Gene had told her, “‘I hate the coward that murdered my brother,’” and that he would have no one to play basketball with.
“Siblings ache for their brother,” Kara McArn said, “and we can’t take that away.” She said that her son’s smile “could light up a room, his laugh was contagious,” and that he “never spoke a harsh word.” Her son was “so full of life and love” and he “loved sports, God and his family.”
She told the court that siblings should never have to bury siblings for such a heinous crime, that it ripped apart twin brothers.
“Why? Why did this have to happen to our son?” she asked the court. A son, she said, who would want them to forgive. “We are aware of the sentence” the court intended to give, she said, and they will “never be satisfied, but know that God has an ultimate plan in our lives.”
Harold McArn, Gene’s father, said that he would dismiss himself. Clearly shaken and in emotion turmoil, he said he “can’t do it, I don’t want to disrupt the courtroom.” He left, returned for a moment, and left again. A statement by Gene McArn’s sister was also submitted, but Clark said earlier that it would not abide by the decorum of the courtroom.
Juarez was then sentenced to three years in state prison, with probation ordered to evaluate any credits he might have. Fines were kept to a minimum in favor of a $4,775 restitution to the family. He was then remanded to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office to await transport to a state prison.
While he was being sentenced, a commotion started outside the courtroom. Yelling and screaming could be heard, the majority coming from Kara McArn. Bailiffs later confirmed that the family was threatening Juarez while they were escorted from the Courthouse. Supporters of Juarez were told to stay inside the courtroom as the sentencing was carried out, pausing only momentarily when the yelling began, but mostly ignoring the outburst. Juarez’s supporters stayed silent, leaving only after a recess was called following the sentencing, giving time for the victim’s supporters to clear out.