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MAN GETS LIFE IN BEATING DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED WOMAN BLINDED IN ATTACK.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

LANCASTER - A developmentally disabled man accused of beating and gouging out the eyes of a co-worker with whom he was infatuated was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Torelle Hill, 26, pleaded no contest to one count of aggravated mayhem after prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of attempted murder, mayhem, assault and battery.

Hill has been described by sheriff's deputies as having the mental capacity of an average child of 10 to 12 years of age.

``They were arguing with each other, and she said, 'I don't want to see you anymore.' That's when his anger took over and he gouged both her eyes,'' Hill's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Richard Guluzza, said after the sentencing.

Guluzza said Hill would be eligible for parole in seven years.

Hill's father apologized in court Wednesday to the family of the victim, who is also developmentally disabled and who was blinded by the attack.

``The defendant's father was there and stood up and wanted to address the court and he apologized to the victim's family,'' said Jane Robison, spokeswoman with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The victim was not present in court, but her mother and grandmother were.

The grandmother said the family hopes God forgives Hill, because it will be an awfully long time before they forgive him. She also said life in prison was not sufficient punishment but that she did not want death for Hill, Guluzza said.

``After discussion with Mr. Hill and getting all discovery, after an investigation of the case, we didn't have much to go on in terms of a viable trial defense-wise. He decided to take the plea. He wanted to do it,'' Guluzza said.

Hill was examined by medical experts, and there was no ``viable defense'' by declaring him mentally incompetent or using an insanity defense, Guluzza said.

The victim, 24-year-old Shanika Thomas of Palmdale, was beaten and blinded May 12 inside a trash enclosure outside a Del Taco restaurant in the 2500 block of East Avenue S, deputies said.

The bloodied woman was spotted by a citizen who flagged down a passing sheriff's deputy. The deputy arrested Hill, who had walked away.

Thomas and Hill had worked together at the Palmdale office of Social Vocational Services, a training center for developmentally disabled people, deputies said.

Deputies said Hill threatened to kill himself over Thomas a month earlier, and was taken to Antelope Valley Hospital's psychiatric ward for an evaluation. He apparently had been infatuated with her for some time, and she did not respond, deputies said.

Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744

karen.maeshiro(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 26, 2003
Words:441
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