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Man pleads guilty to murder in March slaying

TUESDAY, JULY 29, 2014, 10:20 A.M.

Juan Sifuentez, 33, sentenced to life in prison

A 33-year-old Spokane man will spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated murder Tuesday.

Juan Sifuentez pleaded guilty to robbery, kidnapping and murder charges in the stabbing and beating death of 51-year-old Latanya C. Chapin. His plea came just a little more than three months after Chapin’s body was discovered in the trunk of her car on the South Hill and Sifuentez was arrested.

Sifuentez’s defense attorney, Edward Ames, objected to the plea proceedings before they even began in front of Judge James Triplett.

“This is the most unusual position I’ve ever found myself, in 24 years of practicing law,” Ames told Triplett. He called the plea “a mistake.”

But Sifuentez said he was taking responsibility for his actions.

“I believe in my heart, this is what I deserve,” Sifuentez said in a low voice. He requested to be shipped to prison as soon as possible after the sentencing.

Five members of Chapin’s family, who was reported missing in early March, were present in the courtroom. They chose not to address the court.

Investigators said they believed Chapin was killed in retribution for asking Sifuentez and her 29-year-old daughter, Rachael Colby, to move out of a residence the three shared in Spokane Valley sometime in late February. Chapin had made plans to go live with relatives in the Tri-Cities, but she never made the trip.

Prosecutor Mark Cipolla called Chapin’s death a “brutal murder.”

“It’s a tragedy what happened here,” he said.

Sifuentez’s sentencing is the second speedy resolution to a murder case in recent weeks. Last month, 40-year-old Donald Phillips pleaded guilty to murder in the stabbing death of Sean K. Oie, 49, in the downtown Spokane Transit Authority Plaza just 17 days after the incident.

Sifuentez was initially charged with second-degree murder. The aggravated murder charge he pleaded to Tuesday carries a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Colby remains in custody, also facing a charge of second-degree murder. A trial in her case has been tentatively set for September.

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