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Man pleads guilty to murder of woman, sentenced to life in prison

A 33-year-old 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 Spokane County Superior Court Judge James Triplett. The lawyer also asked to be removed from the case.

“This is the most unusual position I’ve ever found myself, in 24 years of practicing law,” Ames told Triplett, who asked that he remain in the courtroom. Ames called the plea “a mistake,” saying Sifuentez was pleading guilty to charges prosecutors could not prove at trial.

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 of Chapin’s family members were present in the courtroom but chose not to address the court.

Chapin was reported missing in early March. Investigators said they believed she was killed in retribution for asking her 29-year-old daughter, Rachael Colby, and Sifuentez 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.

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

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.

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