A jury in Pima County Superior Court found Kyle Alegria guilty of the 2009 rape and murder of a 7-year-old neighbor.
The jury in Judge Deborah Bernini’s courtroom found Alegria guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor under the age of 15 after hearing eight days of testimony.
Alegria killed Rhia Almeida, a friend of his younger brother’s who had come to the house to visit.
The girl was brutally beaten and stabbed before Alegria disposed of her body in the wash next to the home he lived at with his parents in Ajo.
Lawyers for Alegria, Brian Metcalf and Donald Klein, argued their client was guilty of the crimes but insane.
A psychiatrist who examined Alegria for the defense testified that he suffered from severe depression for many years.
San Francisco-based Dr. Pablo Stewart said Alegria’s depression at times left him nearly debilitated, suicidal and psychotic.
“Mr. Alegria was displaying behavior that was absolutely consistent with a person who is hearing voices,” Stewart said under cross-examination.
Deputy Pima County Attorney Rick Unklesbay disputed the doctor’s assessment, noting Pima County jail staff reported Alegria feigned suicidal ideations to avoid having to share a cell.
Unklesbay also pressed the doctor on whether a suicidal and psychotic person would endeavor to dispose of a corpse and hide evidence of a crime in the manner Alegria did after the killing.
Stewart said Alegria’s evasive behaviors didn’t necessarily mean he was cognizant that he’d done something wrong.
Unklesbay also noted Alegria denied killing Rhia to police and his family.
After the verdict on Thursday, in which the jury split on whether the first-degree murder was premeditated or felony murder, both sides argued before the jury about aggravating factors of the charge.
The jury found in favor of the prosecution, deciding Alegria had a substantial involvement in the crime; the crime was especially cruel and caused the victim pain and suffering; and the crime was done in an especially heinous or depraved manner.
The jury next has to determine mitigating factors of the first-degree murder conviction beginning today.
The defense plans to bring in additional witnesses for this phase, which could run well into next week.
After that, the sentencing phase of the trial begins, where Alegria faces the death penalty.