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Man avoids death penalty, takes plea deal in 2011 murder

Jaime Osuna appears in Kern County court in Bakersfield, Calif., on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (KBAK/KBFX photo)
Jaime Osuna appears in Kern County court in Bakersfield, Calif., on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (KBAK/KBFX photo)
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The victim's family said they supported a plea deal in the case of Jaime Osuna. The guilty pleas Osuna entered on Tuesday morning mean he won't face the death penalty, but the case now won't go on to trial.

He admitted killing Yvette Pena, 37, in November 2011.

"We're relieved, we're very relieved," Pena's friend, Jolene Clement, said after the hearing. "We're happy with the outcome."

Pena had been found at the El Morocco Motel on Golden State Avenue. Investigators said she had been gagged and she was found with "stabbing instruments" protruding from her back.

"Today Mr. Osuna entered a plea of guilty to murder as well as attempted murder, and other charges" Kern County Deputy District Attorney Nick Lackie explained, "in exchange for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. He was previously facing the death penalty."

Lackie said Osuna was eligible for the death penalty because the murder included torture.

"It's not very often, even as somebody who prosecutes murders for a living, that I come across somebody who's just plain evil," Lackie said. "If anybody deserves the death penalty, Jamie Osuna does."

But, the prosecutor said the family of Yvette Pena also deserved to move forward in a way “they feel gives them the best chance of justice for her.”

The trial started on Monday, and the prosecutor said there were several outbursts by Osuna.

"One where he was disagreeing with his attorneys," Lackie described, "which is pretty much par for the course for him."

In Tuesday's hearing, Osuna leaned into a microphone and responded to each question from the judge, who made sure Osuna understood that he was pleading guilty, and that he had given up his rights to a trial.

"It was just disgusting," Pena's friend Clement said about Osuna's court appearance. Her daughter, Molly Rodriguez, was also not impressed with Osuna.

"He had like no remorse," Rodriguez said, "He was just blank."

Defense attorney Richard Terry said Osuna may not be capable of real remorse.

"I don't even know that he can comprehend remorse, he's got so many mental issues," Terry told Eyewitness News. The defense attorney said Osuna had been physically abused as a child, and had suffered brain damage.

"He was willing to accept responsibility for what he did, and acknowledge that what he did was wrong," Terry said, "And accept the consequences."

Osuna entered guilty pleas to five felony charges. Those included murder, attempted murder, making threats, assault with a deadly weapon, and trying to dissuade a witness. The prosecutor said after he was arrested, Osuna had tried to prevent his former wife from testifying.

Pena was the mother of six, and her friends say those children are now ages 25 to 6 years old.

"Yvette is always going to be in our hearts," Clement said. "We love her, and we're happy she can finally rest in peace."

Clement said she'd been friends with Pena since the sixth grade, and will remember her beautiful smile.

Osuna will be sentenced on May 15. That's a date the family asked for, Clement said that would have been Pena's 42nd birthday.

The family said Pena's death was horrible, and the criminal case has been a long, difficult ordeal. They're relieved Osuna pleaded guilty, and there will be no trial.

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"We believe it was best for everybody," Clement said, "He'll face his judgement. But for now, it's the best outcome."

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