The Turlock man who kept his girlfriend locked in a dog crate for hours at a time will be spending the next 10 years in a cage of his own making.
On Thursday Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen sentenced Frank Guerra IV, 22, to eight years for felony kidnapping and a year each for battery causing serious bodily injury, and battery on a spouse or cohabitant, for a total of 10 years. Guerra will have to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence and was given two strikes under California’s Three Strikes law.
Guerra was arrested by Turlock Police investigators in February after his former girlfriend accused him of inflicting mental abuse and physical torture on her, including keeping her locked in a dog crate. In April Guerra entered a no contest plea to the felony charges against him.
The victim gave the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office a letter that she had written to be read in court during the victim’s impact statement. The letter detailed some of the abuse she suffered at Guerra’s hands and the impact it has had on her life.
“He mentally had control of me, as well as physically,” the victim stated in her letter. She described herself as feeling “alone and dead inside” from the four years she was with Guerra.
The victim stated that Guerra began locking her in a dog crate because he didn’t trust her to be on her own while he went off to work. She wrote that she was kept in the crate, which was less than three feet high, for six hours on a daily basis. She said she had no food or water and was forced to urinate in a dog dish. The victim said she had to stay in a fetal position and hold her bowel movements and believes this caused her appendix to later rupture.
The victim also wrote that Guerra would force her to take two to three sleeping pills a night and that if she did not lay beside him all night that he would threaten to knock her out for not “obeying him.”
The victim described being repeatedly slapped, shoved, punched and bitten by Guerra. She stated in her letter that Guerra would bite her back and tear the skin when she said she wanted to leave. She stated she has bite mark scars from her waist to her shoulders. She also said he would “bang her head against any object he could find” and would smear dog feces on her face.
“It still breaks me down,” she wrote. “I felt like I deserved it.”
In her letter, the victim said Guerra refused to let her be with her family after her mother passed away and that she was only allowed to attend the funeral service and then had to leave.
“He didn’t let me grieve for her,” she wrote.
Guerra’s defense attorney Ryan Roth argued for a sentence that was less than the maximum of 10 years based on the defendant’s lack of criminal history and a childhood that included early exposure to violence.
“It was an ugly, rough upbringing,” Roth said. “He was a product of his environment.”
Roth also said that because Guerra opted to not fight the charges that he never got a chance to explain his actions and that this “incident was out of his character.”
“Up to this point he had been a positive member of the community,” Roth said.
Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney Beth De Jong, who prosecuted the case, took exception to saying the charges against Guerra were “out of his character.”
“This was repeated behavior,” De Jong told the court. “He locked her in a dog cage day after day. How much more inhumane can you get? I’d say this was more a part of his character.”
The victim was able to get away from Guerra in January and reported the abuse to the police department in February. After her escape the victim received a voicemail from Guerra in which he implicated himself in the abuse. The voicemail was later given to investigators as evidence.
Roth said Guerra apologized for his behavior on the voicemail, but the judge disagreed that it was an apology, saying it wasn’t a statement of contrition.
In addition to the prison sentence, the judge ordered Guerra to make full restitution to the victim and submit a DNA sample. He also was ordered to not have any contact with the victim in any form for the next 10 years.
De Jong said in court that the victim had gotten a text message from a relative of Guerra’s on Wednesday and that she did not want to hear from any of them and that if the contact continued she would seek restraining orders.