Honduran immigrant sentenced to 13 years in fatal stabbing

March 09, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

A 29-year-old Honduran immigrant, who told Howard County authorities that he took part in a fatal stabbing last year in Columbia only because an acquaintance threatened to kill him if he refused, pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Jerman Avelar's contention - that he stabbed 40-year-old Rigoberto Zavala on orders from a man who admitted killing at least six other people in their native Honduras - was the driving force behind yesterday's plea deal, which limited Avelar's prison time while still assuring a murder conviction, Howard prosecutors said.

Avelar's statements to authorities, which were central to the case, raised a potentially potent defense - that the crime was committed under duress, prosecutor Brendan Clary said. That claim could have resulted in a manslaughter conviction, Clary told Howard Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr.

And prosecutors believe that the man Avelar said he feared, Elmer Antonio Galvan-Giron, 33, was the "driving force behind this episode," Clary said.

Galvan-Giron, who roomed with Zavala in the 6500 block of Quiet Hours in Columbia, is charged with first-degree murder. His case is scheduled for trial June 1.

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