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Ex-sailor sentenced in 1975 Va. murder

Apr. 27, 2013 - 03:12PM   |  
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NORFOLK, VA. — A former sailor has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 1975 slaying of a Virginia cab driver.

Circuit Judge Jerrauld Jones in Norfolk noted in sentencing 59-year-old Joel Saenz on Friday that the violence was not diminished by the nearly 4-decade passage of time.

"This was an extraordinarily brutal assault," Jones said.

Lionel Wayne Baldwin, 32, was stabbed in the head, chest, neck and arms in the front seat of his cab. Jones noted Baldwin was an active-duty sailor who was moonlighting to support his wife and two children.

The Virginian-Pilot reports two former shipmates aboard the aircraft carrier Independence came forward last year to clear their consciences and testified that Saenz committed the crime.

One former shipmate testified he and Saenz left a bar after a night of drinking and got into Baldwin's cab. The shipmate said Saenz got into an argument with Baldwin and stabbed the cab driver from the back seat as the shipmate tried to stop the attack. Police recovered a bloody folding knife.

Saenz was taken into custody in April 2012 by police in Indio, Calif., after police in Norfolk obtained a murder warrant.

Saenz entered an Alford plea to second-degree murder in December. An Alford plea means the defendant doesn't admit guilt but agrees that evidence is strong enough to convict them.

Saenz's attorney, Mike Fasanaro, said in court that after the killing, Saenz led a mostly clean life, worked and supported several children. Court records show Saenz had no felony convictions in California.

Prosecutor Phil Evans said that while Saenz escaped justice for decades, "his accountability does not dissipate with time."

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