Man who admitted to National City killing wants to withdraw guilty plea

Victim's family vents at defendant
Posted at 7:26 PM, Aug 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-16 22:26:34-04

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A man who pleaded guilty to killing a 92-year-old woman at her National City apartment asked a judge Wednesday to allow him to withdraw his admissions to first-degree murder and burglary charges.

On the day he was to be sentenced, Peter Thao also asked South Bay Superior Court Judge Ana Espana to allow him to represent himself, Deputy District Attorney C.J. Mody said. The 27-year-old defendant had been facing 31 years to life in prison.

Thao, of Mira Mesa, was arrested last November in the death of Maria Rivera, whose body was found by her daughter at their rental residence in the 1100 block of D Avenue shortly before 6 a.m. Oct. 22.

Authorities didn't disclose what led them to identify Thao as Rivera's killer.

The defendant originally was charged with murder and a special circumstance allegation of murder during a burglary, which could have resulted in a sentence of life without parole or the death penalty.

A hearing on whether Thao can withdraw his plea was scheduled for Sept. 25.

Two granddaughters of the victim who traveled cross-country to attend the sentencing were granted permission to make statements.

Joie Rivera had bitter words for Thao, “I unequivocally hate you! You are pure evil, a coward, a low life.”

Editha Aguilar told the court, "We are all robbed of decent sleep as we imagine and relive the horror of being woken at night, helplessly dragged and painfully beaten. Why? Why us?"