Man gets 9 years for strangling wife nearly to death

Victim will remain in a vegetative state for the rest of her life

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: April 18, 2013, 6:34 PM

 

Vancouver father of three Gabriel Lomeli Orozco was sentenced Thursday in Clark County Superior Court to more than nine years in prison for nearly strangling his wife to death in June 2011.

“Heroic actions” by the couple’s son, Angel, saved Maria Lomeli’s physical life, said Vancouver major crimes Detective Darren McShea.

But the strangulation caused brain damage that will keep her in a persistent vegetative state for the rest of her life, said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu. Breathing and feeding tubes keep her alive, Vu added.

“I have no doubt that if it weren’t for modern medicine, we would have a deceased victim,” said Judge David Gregerson.

Orozco, 42, pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree attempted murder. Apparently despondent, he had to be asked repeatedly to answer questions during the hearing.

The plea came after extensive mental health evaluations and treatment for post-traumatic stress, caused by an assault on Orozco when he entered the United States, said his attorney, Suzan Clark.

The couple’s eldest son, Angel Lomeli, 18, said he now cares for his two younger brothers.

“Everybody is suffering,” Angel Lomeli said. “Having their mom in the state she is and having their dad gone, it is not beneficial for them or me. They’re still our parents, and we still want them around.”

The sentence was between the state’s standard range of between 92¼ and 165 months for a second-degree attempted murder conviction. He will receive credit for 662 days served. Additionally, Orozco will be deported when he completes his sentence, Clark said.

“There is no winner in this situation,” Gregerson said. “If there is a silver lining, it is that this young man of 18 appears to be stepping up as head of the household.”

Orozco’s case was delayed by an initial concern over Orozco’s competency to stand trial. Judge John Wulle committed Orozco to Western State Hospital in late 2011 for a total of 180 days for treatment of hallucinations and severe depression, which is known as “competency restoration” in the courts.

After his treatment, Wulle found him competent in January.

The attempted murder on June 26, 2011, followed a dispute between the couple over Maria Lomeli’s decision to take a job at a Mexican restaurant to help support the family, Vu said.

“The defendant was not happy that,” Vu said. “He was very jealous and wanted her to stay at home to take care of the children and the house. Maria continued to work despite her husband’s desires. Several times, he had gone to the restaurant and argued with her regarding his desire for her to stay at home.”

The night before the attack, Maria Lomeli and Angel Lomeli went to a birthday party at a neighbor’s house, Vu said.

“The defendant arrived (at the party) and saw Maria drinking with other adults,” Vu said. “He was not happy about that.”

After the party, the couple had an argument around 10 p.m., and then everyone went to sleep, he said.

The next morning, Angel and one of his younger brothers got up and went to watch television in the living room, which adjoined their parents’ bedroom. From her bed, Maria Lomeli asked the boys what time it was, Vu said. Then, Orozco, who also was awake, went to the bathroom, returned to the bedroom and shut the door.

The boys heard their parents arguing but couldn’t decipher what exactly was said, Vu said.

Ten to 20 minutes later, Orozco rushed out of the bedroom, grabbed his keys and drove away in his truck without “saying a single word to anybody,” Vu said.

Angel Lomeli thought that was strange, so he checked on his mother, he said.

“Her face was purple; she wasn’t breathing,” he said. She was unresponsive. He called 911, and the dispatcher instructed him to perform CPR on her.

Emergency responders took over from there.

“He left his wife to be located by his own sons,” Vu said. “That shows a lack of compassion, forethought … and selfishness.”

After the attack, Orozco attempted to commit suicide by ingesting rat poison, according to court documents. He surrendered to Vancouver police later in the day in a strip mall parking lot at 5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd.

“He has expressed many times that he did not intend to hurt her. …” Clark said. “That morning was the culmination of a lot of stress happening with the family.”

“His despair over this is beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts;http://facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com.