- Associated Press - Saturday, February 22, 2014

PACAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - An Ocean Springs man has pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges stemming from his arrest in 2011 for dousing his then-girlfriend in gasoline and setting her on fire.

Circuit Court Judge Dale Harkey sentenced 28-year-old Richard Lee Luss II to serve 20 years in prison. Luss was fined $8,000.

Luss pleaded guilty Friday to charges of aggravated domestic violence, tampering with a witness, conspiracy to commit perjury and subornation of perjury.

The victim, Karla Villafranca, suffered burns on more than 80 percent of her body, and spent four months in a medically induced coma.

Gautier police said authorities responded Nov. 27, 2011, to a fire at the home Luss shared with Villafranca. Police say they arrested Luss months later, after the woman was able to tell authorities what happened.

Luss had been scheduled to go to trial next week, but ended up pleading guilty to all charges he faced.

“It’s kind of like what the judge said at the end, sometimes the 20 years just doesn’t seem like enough,” District Attorney Tony Lawrence said. “Well, that’s exactly right in this case. What happened to Karla in this case is like a nightmare you can never really imagine.

The conspiracy to commit perjury, tampering with a witness, and subornation of perjury occurred in May 2013. Prosecutors said Luss convinced another inmate at the Jackson County Adult Detention Center to sign an affidavit under oath taking responsibility for setting Villafranca on fire. The scheme was discovered when officials realized that inmate was actually locked up when Villafranca was burned.

Luss on Friday apologized for the attack, calling it an “unfortunate accident.” Harkey pointed out it was no accident at all.

Villafranca told the court what she’s had to endure as a result of the burning.

“I had to relearn how to do everything,” she said. “Everything hurt. Sometimes just breathing hurt. I felt like I was on fire all over again.

“By the grace of God, I am able to do quite a bit more on my own. Some days, I look down and see my arms and my scars and I remember the pain I felt. I remember seeing my skin peeled off my fingers. I remember how I felt when my skin was melting off my body.”

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