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Barbaric crime nets life sentence
luis valencia
Luis Valencia

The 27-year-old man convicted of the brutal slaying of a Livingston woman by lighting her on fire, will spend the rest of his days in prison.

Merced County Superior Court Judge John Kirihara sentenced Luis Valencia, an illegal immigrant, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2007 murder of Rosa Avina.

Valencia was found guilty by a jury in September of first-degree murder with the special circumstances of kidnapping, torture, and mayhem. He also was convicted of felony kidnapping with the enhancement of using a firearm.

Valencia’s conviction stems from events that transpired on the night of Oct. 24, 2007, when Avina was kidnapped from a Turlock home during a staged home invasion robbery.

She was bound, gagged, blindfolded and placed into the trunk of a Pontiac Grand Am, and was driven to a Delhi home, where five men discussed how they could “rough up” Avina because she allegedly took a pound of marijuana from one of the men.

 Avina was driven to an orchard in Ballico, where she was thrown into the hull of an abandoned boat, doused with gasoline and set on fire.

Avina was burned over the majority of her body, but was able to walk to a farmhouse nearly a mile away in an effort to get help. She was air lifted to a burn unit in the Bay Area and died from her injuries two days later.

The remaining defendants, Omar Cebrero, Urbano Ortega, and Alvaro Reyes are being tried separately and are awaiting trial. A fifth defendant, Luis Vazquez, previously pled guilty to kidnapping and burglary and was sentenced to nine years and four months. As part of his plea deal, Vazquez has to testify for the prosecution.

During Thursday’s sentencing hearing a victim’s advocate read a statement from Avina’s sister Maria Avina, who said she still carries the pain of knowing her sister suffered from so much pain during her final days.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.