Plea deal made in murder for hire triangle

Thu, May 20, 2004 (9:36 a.m.)

A man accused of playing a part in the killing of a UNLV student in a murder-for-hire plot involving a love triangle pleaded guilty Wednesday in exchange for a chance at parole.

Obed Marroquin-Valle was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 40 years in exchange for pleading guilty to charges of first-degree murder and two counts of kidnapping with the use of a deadly weapon for his involvement in the January 2001 killing of 27-year-old Tzatzi Sanchez.

Marroquin-Valle said that he went to Sanchez's apartment with Luis Barroso with the understanding that they were going to rob her. Instead, when they entered Sanchez's home near Nellis Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue, they found Sanchez and her friend and tied them up.

Barroso then went on to strangle, beat and sexually assault Sanchez before killing her, according to authorities.

Authorities say that Barroso had entered an agreement with Sanchez's ex-girlfriend, Marsella Whaley, to kill Sanchez for getting a new girlfriend.

"He (Marroquin-Valle) was not involved in the conspiracy and had nothing to do with the murder-for-hire dynamic present in this case," Marroquin-Valle's attorney, Daren Richards, said. "He went in just to steal some stuff, and when he entered the home he saw the two potential kidnapping victims."

Richards said under Nevada's felony murder rule it didn't matter that Marroquin-Valle didn't commit the murder or know of the plot; he was guilty of murder because the kidnapping led to murder.

Richards said luckily for his client the state was on the "same page" and offered the agreement after realizing Marroquin-Valle didn't know the murder was going to happen.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Frank Coumou agreed that Marroquin-Valle never knew of the murder-for-hire plot that Barroso and Whaley had planned.

"We had a jury trial for Barroso and it became very clear that he and Whaley are the only two involved that agreed to have this done."

A jury found Barroso guilty of 10 felony charges, including first-degree murder, sexual assault and kidnapping charges. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Whaley faces charges in Mexico, where she fled following the slaying, for allegedly orchestrating the killing, authorities said.

Marroquin-Valle is to be sentenced June 30.

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