Montgomery Man Gets Life Term for Beating Woman With Crucifix

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In the final chapter of a case of attempted murder that stunned even longtime police officers, a 33-year-old Takoma Park man was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for beating his estranged girlfriend last year with a two-foot-tall crucifix and slashing her across the face, stopping only when a Takoma Park police officer burst into her apartment and shot him.

"There is no doubt in this court's mind that you intended to kill Ms. [Ana] Valdez," Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Durke G. Thompson told Carlos Ovalle.

Prosecutors estimated the crucifix weighed at least five pounds. Ovalle beat Valdez so many times with it that doctors spent 45 minutes picking shards of ceramic out of her skull and wounds, according to testimony at Ovalle's trial in July.

Valdez attended the sentencing hearing Tuesday, bearing a scar near her chin. She submitted a letter to Thompson detailing years of abuse at Ovalle's hands and urging the judge to impose a stiff sentence.

"He believed that by committing this act against me he was going to end me," wrote Valdez, who has two daughters with Ovalle, ages 4 and 5. "Hopefully, what he did and has done was to put me on the right track to reinforce my strength to keep going with my life."

Ovalle and Valdez met in their native Guatemala. After moving to the United States, he started hitting her, Valdez and prosecutors said. At times, she avoided telling police because Ovalle threatened her, Valdez wrote. She did report him to police at other times, and he was locked up at least twice, according to court records.

On Dec. 21, Valdez's 23rd birthday, Ovalle slipped into her Takoma Park apartment. She arrived home with her girls, smelled cigarette smoke, thought it unusual and began looking around. Ovalle jumped out of a closet, a knife in his right hand.

"Happy birthday. I have your present," Ovalle said, according to Valdez's testimony. "Tonight you're going to die."

First he choked her, prosecutors said. Then he threw her down, grabbed the crucifix off a wall and started beating her. At one point, Valdez bought herself time by telling Ovalle to turn on a Barbie DVD for the girls to watch in another room so they wouldn't see the assault.

Takoma Park police Officer Angela Donovan, responding to a call of a woman crying, arrived outside the apartment. On the other side of the door, Ovalle ordered Valdez to tell the officer everything was all right, authorities said. Donovan didn't buy it and forced her way inside.

The officer saw Ovalle holding a knife to Valdez's throat and ordered him to drop it, police said. When he didn't, she shot him twice. One of the bullets passed through Ovalle and hit Valdez in an arm, police said.

At the sentencing hearing Tuesday, Ovalle's attorney, Samuel Delgado, advised him not to speak. Ovalle didn't comply. He addressed the judge and proceeded to vilify Valdez, saying that she had lied about an earlier pregnancy to lure him to the United States from Guatemala.

"I do accept that I did make a mistake, but she provoked me," Ovalle said via an interpreter. "And I was drunk when I assaulted her."

"It's not Ms. Valdez's doing that brought you to this court," Thompson said. "It is your own."

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