Girl, 15, pleads guilty to killing man in Durham carjacking

CorrespondentMarch 17, 2014 

Justino Navaretta Maya

DURHAM COUNTY JAIL

— A 15-year-old girl pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Monday in the death of a man she tricked into giving her and her friends a ride so they could kill him.

Diana Escobar, who was 14 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.

As part of a plea agreement, she must testify against Justino Navaretta Maya, 17, who is accused of firing the gun that killed 35-year-old Johnny Danilo Villatoro, who was a father of three.

Escobar will be sentenced to 10 to 13 years in prison. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 19.

A 12-year-old girl, who was accused of be the ringleader of the trio, has already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in juvenile court, according to Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried. She will be held in a juvenile-detention facility until she is 21, he said. Police do not release the names of juvenile defendants.

Police said the 12-year-old and Escobar had run away from their home in Wake County and were staying with Maya when they decided to do a drive-by shooting of a rival gang, Dornfried told Superior Court Judge Elaine Bushfan during a hearing in Durham County Criminal Superior Court.

But the trio had no car, so they decided to carjack someone, police said.

Villatoro was at a cellphone store Dec. 28, 2012, paying his bill, when Escobar approached him and said she and her friends needed a ride home. Villatoro agreed, and the trio got in his SUV.

They gave him directions to Firth Road, a dead end street. When they got there, Maya was supposed to shoot Villatoro, Dornfried said. At first Maya hesitated, but when Villatoro began struggling with the 12-year-old, Maya shot Villatoro seven times and left his body on the side of street.

Maya ran over Villatoro’s arm before driving to Channing Avenue off North Roxboro Street. That’s when the 12-year-old accidentally shot herself in the stomach and the leg with the handgun. She called her mother, who called for an ambulance, Dornfried said.

Police were quickly able to link the three youths to Villatoro’s killing from blood and bullet casings found in the SUV, Dornfried said.

With many members of her family in the gallery behind her, Escobar appeared in court wearing jeans, a white shirt and a turquoise hooded sweatshirt, her hair pulled back in a bun. She answered clearly, “Yes ma’am,” as Bushfan asked her questions about her plea.

Maya’s trial is expected to begin April 7.

Velliquette: bavelliquette@gmail.com

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