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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 24, 1998
Attorney General's Office Appointed to Answer Petition in Sagastegui Case

OLYMPIA - September 24, 1998 - The Washington Attorney General's Office will answer a petition filed Sept. 23 in the state Supreme Court that seeks to delay the scheduled Oct. 13 execution of Jeremy Vargas Sagastegui.

The petition, filed by Sagastegui's mother, Katie Vargas, asks the Supreme Court to stay the execution and appoint her to represent the condemned killer. The petition claims that Sagastegui is not mentally competent to make decisions concerning legal issues in his case.

Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Andy Miller has appointed staff from the Attorney General's Office as special deputy prosecuting attorneys for Benton County to respond to the petition.

The state's reply to Vargas' petition is expected to be filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

“We will ask the Court to dismiss the petition on grounds that Mr. Sagastegui has been found competent in a previous review of his case by the Supreme Court,” said Senior Assistant Attorney General Scott Blonien, the head of the state's Capital Litigation Team. “His mother has not presented any credible evidence to challenge that finding.”

In February 1996, Sagastegui pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the 1995 deaths of 3-year-old Kievan Sarbacher, his mother, Melissa Sarbacher, and her friend, Lisa Vera-Acevado. Sagastegui sexually abused, beat, stabbed and then drowned Kievan, whom he was babysitting, before shooting his mother and her friend when they returned to Sarbacher's home in Finley, Benton County.

Sagastegui, 27, chose not to be represented by an attorney at his trial and declined to appeal his convictions and death sentence. However, standby counsel was appointed to assist Sagastegui if he requested it.

The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the death sentence and directed the Benton County Superior Court to set the execution date.

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