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Jury Recommends Death Penalty For Castaic Child Killer

khts_breakingnewsA San Fernando jury today recommended that a 29-year-old Van Nuys man be put to death for torturing and killing his girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter six years ago.

The same jurors on July 8 found Antonio Rodriguez guilty of the first-degree murder of Desarie Saravia and the abuse of her brother, who was 6 years old at the time.

Rodriguez also was convicted of torture, child abuse, corporal injury to a child, sexual penetration by a foreign object and assault on a child causing death.

Desarie died on Nov. 12, 2004, after being sexually assaulted and beaten in the women's restroom at Hasley Canyon Park in Castaic, said Deputy District Attorney Mary Sedgwick, who prosecuted the case.


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Sedgwick said she was grateful to the jurors for recommending death. “This was an emotionally difficult case for the jury, and I’m grateful that I could obtain justice for the two young victims,” she said.

Jurors deliberated about three hours before returning a verdict in the penalty phase.

The child’s 32-year-old mother Debby Saravia is awaiting trial. Saravia is charged in the same case with murder, two counts of child abuse and two counts of corporal injury to a child. If convicted, she faces up to life in state prison.

The couple was arrested in November 2004 after Los Angeles County paramedics responded to a call in Castaic and found the girl in convulsions. She was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. The boy was also taken to the hospital.

Rodriguez returns on Sept. 2 for sentencing by Judge Ronald Coen.