A 26-year-old farmworker pleaded guilty this morning in Fresno County Superior Court to sexually assaulting a 4-year-old disabled girl and trying to kill her by burying her in a vineyard near Raisin City on Christmas Day 2008.
As part of a plea deal to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison, Juan Gomez-Jimenez pleaded guilty to charges of sexual intercourse with a child under 10 and to attempted murder, said attorney Douglas Foster, who represents Gomez-Jimenez.
Under the plea agreement, Gomez-Jimenez will be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, which makes him eligible for parole in about 25 years, Foster said. He also will have to register as a sex offender for life.
If Gomez-Jimenez had been convicted, he would have served three life sentences, Foster said.
"The evidence against him was overwhelming," Foster said, noting that DNA linked his client to the crime and that Gomez-Jimenez also made incriminating statements.
Gomez-Jimenez will be sentenced March 18.
The victim and her family were attending a Christmas Eve 2008 celebration at a rural home on Cornelia Avenue between Manning and Dinuba avenues, said sheriff's detective Virginia Rodriguez, who testified at the defendant's preliminary hearing in July.
About 75 people attended the celebration, including Gomez-Jimenez, who lived in a labor camp in Caruthers, Rodriguez said.
While the girl and her two brothers -- ages 6 and 2 -- slept in the family van, their parents attended a midnight Mass at the home. After the Mass, the mother went to check on her children and found her daughter missing, Rodriguez testified.
A rescuers with a flashlight later found the girl buried in a vineyard with only one foot sticking out of the ground, Rodriguez testified. A rescuer dug her out and shook her, Rodriguez said.
She then started to breathe.
The girl -- who suffers from a medical condition and cannot talk, walk or eat on her own -- was taken to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Rodriguez said. An exam later revealed that Gomez-Jimenez's semen was on the girl