A Fairfax County jury has found a man not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2009 killing of a Bailey’s Crossroads woman and the stabbing of a 2-year-old girl.
Jose F. Argueta, 44, of no fixed address, was facing first-degree murder and malicious wounding charges after he stabbed Maria del Carmen Mejia, 68, multiple times in the abdomen and slashed the girl she was holding in her arms. The attack occurred inside Mejia’s apartment in the 3400 block of Glen Carlyn Drive on August 25, 2009.
Prosecutors had argued that Argueta, while mentally ill, was upset that his girlfriend had recently left him for another man and took out his frustration on Mejia, who was his ex-landlord. Argueta entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
The trial was unusual since mental health experts tapped by both the prosecution and the defense found Argueta was legally insane at the time of the crime. Dr. Kenneth Showalter, who evaluated Argueta for the state, testified Argueta believed he had to kill Mejia to remove a curse placed on him by his ex-wife.
“He believed his ex-girlfriend had become a witch and joined up with a warlock,” Showalter testified. “He believed he had rats and cockroaches inside his body.”
The jury deliberated for two-and-a-half days before returning the verdict.
Argueta will now be evaluated and most likely committed to a psychiatric hospital.
“I’m glad that the jury saw he was not sane at the time of offense,” said Karin Kissiah, Argueta’s attorney. “For someone who was mentally ill, he will now get treatment.”
The Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney did not return a call for comment.