A Lane County jury on Wednesday swiftly found a man guilty of murdering his 19-year-old girlfriend in Eugene in 2016.
Jurors in Erick Joaquin’s murder trial spent about 30 minutes in deliberations before reaching a unanimous guilty verdict. The jury heard evidence in the case over the last week, and listened early Wednesday afternoon to attorneys’ closing arguments.
The victim, Jessica Frank of Eugene, suffered massive wounds to her neck and was stabbed approximately two dozen times during the Nov. 4, 2016, incident at Joaquin’s residence off Highway 99 in north Eugene.
“To saw her throat makes evident that (Joaquin) was trying to kill her,” prosecutor Chris Parosa said in a closing argument.
Joaquin’s attorney, Brook Reinhard, asserted to the jury in his closing argument that the murder investigation was incomplete, and that the state had not proved the charge.
Joaquin, 24, rocked slightly in his chair but otherwise displayed no visible reaction as Lane County Circuit Judge Jay McAlpin read aloud the verdict in court.
Joaquin is scheduled to return to court for sentencing next Wednesday. He will be sentenced to life in prison.
Several of Frank’s friends and family members were in court when the verdict was announced. Some of them smiled and nodded when they heard McAlpin pronounce Joaquin guilty. Through a victim services specialist, Frank’s family declined comment after court was adjourned.
Family members testified at trial that before Frank died, she had been excited about her budding relationship with Joaquin. The pair had met weeks earlier on an online dating site.
On the night of her death, Frank went alone to Joaquin’s home. Authorities assert the fledgling couple argued about whether or not they were involved in a serious relationship and that Joaquin flew into a rage and slashed Frank’s throat after she had insulted him.
After killing Frank, Joaquin removed floor boards in his room, dug a hole and buried the woman’s body there.
He was arrested the next day, after authorities received a 911 call from the owner of the property where Joaquin had been living.
Police subsequently learned the caller had learned of the incident from another man who lived on the property and reportedly witnessed the stabbing.
The witness, German Yucupicio-Pizano, did not testify at Joaquin’s trial. A judge issued a material witness warrant for his arrest in January, but Parosa said Wednesday that police recently spoke with him and learned that he is in Mexico and has been fearful of returning to Eugene to testify.
Reinhard acknowledged that Joaquin was the “most logical” suspect in the case but reminded jurors in his closing argument that Yucupicio-Pizano’s DNA had been found on some items in Joaquin’s room. He also said authorities never formally ruled out Yucupicio-Pizano as a suspect in Frank’s homicide.
Parosa, however, told the jury that “it’s only (Joaquin) that the evidence points to.”
After his arrest, Joaquin initially told police that he’d stabbed Frank in self-defense after she picked up a knife and threatened to kill him.
But he acknowledged in a second interview with detectives that he became angry and killed Frank after she had insulted him.
Joaquin will continue to be held in the Lane County Jail until after his sentencing hearing.