A Scottsdale man who pleaded guilty to a carjacking and home invasion this summer in connection with a case in which Gilbert police burned down a Valley home, was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday.
Erasmo Ruiz Villarreal, 24, made headlines earlier this year when Gilbert police, while investigating his case, set fire to the home as they attempted to serve a search warrant.
Villarreal pleaded guilty in August to auto theft and armed robbery for an Oct. 30 carjacking at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, and to first-degree burglary for a Dec. 17 home invasion.
Other charges were dismissed as a condition of the plea agreement.
The victim of the Scottsdale home invasion, Cody Bonafasi, and his mother, Carmela Bonafasi, asked Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Udall on Wednesday for the maximum sentence of 23 years in prison, as outlined by the plea agreement.
Cody Bonafasi lost money, his Cadillac Escalade, television and dog in the home invasion.
“I lost everything I had. I don’t really know what to say,” he said before getting choked up. “They took my puppy too.”
In court on Wednesday, Villarreal turned to Bonafasi and apologized for the loss of the dog. He said he tried to find the animal but couldn’t.
Prosecutor Vince Goddard argued vigorously for the maximum sentence, saying that Villarreal, a Chandler street gang member, has shown a pattern of increased violence in his criminal activity.
“Essentially, he’s on a straight line path,” Goddard said. He said there was no indication that Villarreal could be a benefit to society.
“Frankly, I think that’s a little light,” he said of the 23-year recommendation.
But Villarreal’s girlfriend, who declined to give her last name, told the judge she believed in the father of her 7-month-old child.
“If you give him a chance, I know he can do better,” she said.
Udall sentenced Villarreal to 15 years in prison on the aggravated assault charge in the carjacking, 10.5 years and a $9,000 fine in the burglary, 9.25 years in prison for armed robbery in the home invasion and five years probation and a $9,000 fine for auto theft. The prison terms are set to run concurrently, leaving Villarreal with a 15-year sentence.
Gilbert police were searching for Villarreal on Dec. 20 when an officer launched a diversionary canister through the window of the Phoenix home and it landed on a bed, catching the home on fire.
The homeowners, Salvador and Carolota Celaya, ages 73 and 69, said they did not know Villarreal.
Court records show that police did not recover stolen property at the Celaya home. The only link police had to suggest that Villarreal might be there was a license plate that matched a vehicle registered to one of the Celayas’ daughters.
Sonia Celaya told the Tribune she’d been missing one of her two vanity plates for about a year, and she had no connection to Villarreal or any home invasion.
Villarreal was arrested Jan. 13 at a home in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.