(Phoenix, Ariz. – July 2, 2010) Attorney General Terry Goddard today commended the Arizona Supreme Court for upholding the death penalty against Joshua Idelfonso Villalobos, now 28, in the 2004 murder of five-year-old Ashley Molina.
According to court documents, Villalobos lived with Annette Verdugo, five-year-old Ashley Molina (Verdugo’s daughter), and the couple’s two-year-old daughter. On January 3, 2004, Villalobos and Ashley Molina picked Verdugo up at work in Phoenix and took her to dinner. Ashley did not eat and complained about stomach pains.
Villalobos and Ashley again picked Verdugo up from work after her shift ended in the early morning of January 4. When Verdugo noted an odd smell, Villalobos claimed he had vomited in the car. When they arrived home, Villalobos carried Ashley upstairs and put her to bed. Around 7 a.m., Villalobos told Verdugo that Ashley was unresponsive. After some delay, Villalobos and Verdugo took Ashley to the hospital.
The emergency room physician recognized immediately that Ashley was dead and found “somewhere between 150 and 200 bruises” on her body. Villalobos told the physician that the bruises were from a fall in the shower. Later, Villalobos admitted to grabbing Ashley by the arm and hitting her several times with a closed fist. He also said that she passed out in the car and vomited on him while he was picking up Verdugo. Ashley died between five to eight hours before being taken to the hospital.
“This was a particularly vicious murder of an innocent child, ”Goddard said. “The affirmation of the jury’s verdict sends a clear message that child abuse will not be tolerated in Arizona.”
In 2008, a Maricopa County jury sentenced Villalobos to death. He appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, and their decision affirmed the jury’s verdict and upheld the death penalty.
The trial prosecutors were Patricia Stevens and Desi Rubalcava from Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Jonathan Bass from the Attorney General’s Office argued the case in the Arizona Supreme Court.
A copy of the opinion and photo of Villalobos are attached. For additional information, contact Press Secretary Molly Edwards at 602-542-8019.