- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A Nevada state court jury that found a 24-year-old man guilty of first-degree murder began a penalty hearing Friday to decide whether he should be sentenced to death for the 2011 rape, stabbing and mutilation killing of a 15-year-old Las Vegas girl.

Javier Righetti’s trial this week focused on a narrow question of guilt on a capital murder charge, after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Righetti’s guilty plea to all charges more than a year ago didn’t specify that his attack on Alyssa Otremba was premeditated.

The jury wasn’t told during four days of testimony that Righetti also pleaded guilty to kidnapping, raping and robbing Otremba, a high school sophomore whose burned corpse was found in a vacant lot near a path home from school in northwest Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/2nNlkJd ) the jury spent fewer than 30 minutes deliberating before delivering its guilty verdict on Thursday.

Premeditation was one of three legs of the prosecution theory supporting the murder charge. The others were that Otremba was tortured and that the murder occurred during the commission of other felonies.

Righetti was 19 at the time of the slaying. If sentenced to die, he would become the youngest inmate on death row in Nevada. His plea in February 2016 came with no promise he would not be put to death.

The state high court unanimously disagreed with an argument by Righetti’s court-appointed defense attorney, Christy Craig, that the flaw in his plea meant that prosecutors lost the ability to seek the death penalty.

Righetti still awaits sentencing on the other charges, which could get him life in prison.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, https://www.lvrj.com

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