A man who doused a woman in gasoline and lit her on fire because he thought she had stolen his cocaine had his last chance at a new trial rejected this week as the court found he knew what he was doing when he accepted a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty.
The murderer, Ruben Pimentel, 41, had his motion for post-conviction relief rejected by Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley, who, seven years ago, sentenced the defendant to life in prison for the murder of Gina Thompson, 35.
The plea was a negotiated settlement by which Pimentel skirted a trial which could have ended in him receiving the death penalty. Two co-defendants, halfbrothers Franklin De la Cruz, 38, and Luiz Gomez, 31, are both serving 36-year sentences for being accessories to the murder.
Pimentel’s life term comes for setting Thompson on fire at a local trailer park after accusing her of stealing the cocaine they had smuggled here from New York. It was later discovered the cocaine, which had been hidden in the dashboard, had fallen to the bottom of an air duct. Pimentel, who was obese, weighing over 400 pounds at the time, was unable to reach the drugs and believed Thompson had taken them. The drugs were later found inside the air duct by authorities. Thompson died days later.
As for his attempt at getting a new trial, Pimentel brought up a wide range of allegations saying he had not been afforded effective assistance of counsel and that he had been under medication at the time of his plea agreement and had not understood what he was doing. However, Judge Stanley reminded Pimentel he took great pains to ensure the defendant knew what he was doing when he entered the agreement, noting Pimentel agreed the whole time he wanted the agreement. The judge pointed out should Pimentel get his wish for a new trial, he would again face the death penalty.
In the end, Stanley found attorneys representing Pimentel were death-penalty-qualified attorneys who were extremely competent as counsel.
The decision effectively ends Pimentel’s attempts at getting out of prison.