A judge in New York sentenced a Queens woman to 23 years in prison on Tuesday for brutally killing her aunt with a meat cleaver in 2017.
Elizabeth Sanchez, who pleaded guilty this week to first-degree manslaughter in the death of 50-year-old Maria Palaguachi, was also sentenced on child sex crime charges. In addition to the 23 years for her aunt's death, Sanchez received between two-and-a-third and seven years behind bars for the second-degree rape of an underage family member. The 32-year-old pleaded guilty to that charge as well.
Sanchez, who authorities say also went by Digna Sanchez-Ortiz, had been living in Palaguachi’s Jamaica, Queens home when the vicious killing transpired.
“This defendant brutally took the life of her close relative, someone who took her into her home when the woman did not have a place to stay,” acting Queens District Attorney John M. Ryan said in a press release.
“This was a brutal attack that has traumatized an entire family,” Ryan added. “On top of that, the defendant also admitted to raping a teenage male relative several times. The sentence imposed today by the Court punishes this defendant for her criminal actions and hopefully brings closure to this family.”
Sanchez’s sentence was the result of a plea deal her legal team made with prosecutors in June.
Prosecutors told WNBC in New York that Palaguachi had taken her niece in because she had nowhere else to stay. But on March 16, 2017, authorities say Sanchez attacked her aunt with a meat cleaver at their Jamaica Queens residence.
“[Sanchez] struck the victim, Maria Palaguachi, multiple times about the head, neck and shoulder with a meat cleaver causing the victim's death,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.
It’s unclear what led to the killing. PEOPLE.com reported that Palaguachi’s daughter discovered her body afterward. Police had reportedly been called to the residence multiple times in the past, according to DNAinfo.
Investigators later found the meat cleaver in the family’s attic “with what appeared to be blood on it.”
At the time of her arrest, police also charged Sanchez with possession of a weapon, according to the criminal complaint against her.
Officials said that around the time of her aunt’s killing, Sanchez had “sexual intercourse” with an underage relative three times between December 2016 and March 2017. The victim was a “teenage boy younger than 15 years old,” according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com.
Sanchez’s sentences will run concurrently, prosecutors say. Once she serves her sentence, Sanchez is required to undergo five years of post-release supervision.
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