After hearing pleas from the victim of a brutal sexual assault three years ago, a Comal County jury on Friday sentenced her attacker, Christopher Joel Vizcaino, to 21 years in prison.
The four-man, eight-woman jury on Thursday found Vizcaino, now 27, guilty on three of five counts of aggravated sexual assault Comal County Sheriff’s Office investigators said were committed “ with his knife or hands ” on April 22, 2016.
Two of the five charges in the Dec. 6, 2017 indictment were dropped. The jury was selected Monday in visiting Judge Dwight Peschel’s 207th District Court. The trial’s guilt or innocence phase on the remaining counts began Tuesday and ended Thursday morning.
Vizcaino neither testified during the trial nor during its punishment phase. He must serve at least half of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole, with the three terms, running concurrently, far less than the life sentence sought by prosecutors.
On Friday, Peschel considered two motions by San Antonio defense attorney Richard Molina. The first questioned a juror’s past relationship and recent interaction with the victim’s friends and family members; the other sought to exclude mention of Vizcaino’s 2015 misdemeanor family violence assault conviction.
Peschel overruled both before calling in the jury to formally begin the trial’s punishment phase. Assistant Criminal District Attorneys Shelby Griffin and Allison Buess recalled the victim to testify on the lingering psychological effects from the attack, which occurred at a residence in the 16500 block of South Access Road in Canyon Lake.
The woman said she still carries psychological scars from the incident, which also affected her relationships with her husband and daughters. She said she went through a deep depression that she tried to fight by eating, which led to a massive weight gain that was later corrected through a surgical procedure.
“Why did I go forward with this?” she said, looking toward the jury panel. “It could have been your daughters, your sisters, your mothers, your aunts – I did it for every woman, and myself.”
She thanked jurors for convicting Vizcaino, urging them to “give him what he deserves.”
Molina asked the jury not to consider leveling the “full range of punishment” against his client, which must serve at least half of the assessed sentence before being considered for parole. He reminded Vizcaino must register for life as a sex offender; that a lengthy sentence would keep him from his wife and three children, and asked they not deny him a realistic chance at rehabilitation.
Several of Vizcaino’s family members brushed back tears during Molina’s plea, in contrast to the determined gazes of the victim, who locked arms with her daughter and mother as Buess made the prosecution’s case for sentencing.
“There are no numbers that should be considered,” she said. “It comes down to one four-letter word: life. A life sentence is required in this case because he killed a part of (the victim) that she will never get back.”
Molina refused comment on the trial and did not return phone messages after Peschel passed down the jury’s sentence. Comal County prosecutors labeled Vizcaino, a Canyon Lake resident now living in San Antonio, as “a monster of a man.”
“The victim testified that Vizcaino not only sexually assaulted her, but also beat and strangled her during the assault,” said DA’s office in its Facebook post Friday evening. “Photo evidence of the crime scene allowed the jury to see the extreme brutality of the offense … blood soaked furniture and items, including the defendant’s bloody knife, were shown during the trial.”
Buess said the images and testimony “will continue to haunt” all involved in the case.
“This was a particularly brutal assault and it took tremendous courage for this victim to come forward and face her attacker,” she said, thanking Griffin, CCSO Det. Becca Coons and victim’s advocate Elva Brenner, and CCSO staffers for supporting the victim and her family.
“I am grateful to have had the honor of speaking on her behalf,” Buess said. “I hope she knows that all the citizens of Comal County are safer today and for the next 21 years because she did not allow this defendant to frighten her into silence.”