The Washington Post

30 years for Hyattsville man who fatally shot co-worker; victim was dating estranged wife

A Hyattsville man was sentenced to more than 31 years in prison Friday for fatally shooting a co-worker whose body he put in a cardboard box and dumped along Interstate 70 in Frederick County, Md.

Before he was sentenced, Marvin Palencia, 38, apologized to the family of Jacobo Vazquez, the 36-year-old man whom Palencia was convicted of killing, as well as to his own family.

“I know nothing I do can change the past. It was a grievous mistake,” Palencia said in Spanish while standing next to his interpreter. “I took the life of another human being. I had no right to do so. I caused needless damages, suffering and sorrow.”

Authorities said that on Nov. 11, 2010, Palencia shot Vazquez in the chest and back in an office building in the 100 block of Constitution Avenue NW, where they were maintenance workers. Prosecutors argued during the June trial that Palencia was angry that Vazquez had started dating his wife. Palencia and his wife were separated at the time, but he hoped that they would be able to reconcile.

Prosecutors Nicholas Cannon and Kevin Flynn said Palencia had threatened Vazquez about a week before the killing. Palencia then learned of Vazquez’s work schedule, showed up with an unlicensed gun and shot Vazquez in the building’s laundry room. Prosecutors said that Palencia then placed Vazquez’s body in a cardboard box, wrapped the box with duct tape, plastic and a cord, and dumped it on the side of I-70 about 50 miles north of the District. In Palencia’s haste to wrap the box, he unknowingly attached his work identification to it, authorities said.

Jacobo Vazquez (Courtesy of U. S. Attorney's Office)

A D.C. Superior Court jury convicted Palencia of first-degree murder while armed.

Palencia faced a maximum of 60 years in prison. In court Friday, Judge John Ramsey Johnson referred to to Palencia’s disposal of Vazquez’s body as “a final indignity” and “offensive.” But the judge said that despite prosecutors’ arguments, he believed that Palencia was remorseful, and he sentenced him to 311 / 2 years in prison. Proscutors had asked for a 33-year-sentence.

Palencia’s wife and family were in the courtroom. Prosecutors said they were unable to locate Vazquez’s family in Mexico.

Palencia’s attorneys, Gabriel Diaz and James Whitehead of the District’s Public Defender Service, requested that the judge ask the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house Palencia in a nearby prison so his family can visit him. The judge said he would make such a request.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.

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