UKIAH, CA -- Aaron Vargas pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter charges on Tuesday, one week before he was to stand trial for murder. Vargas admitted killing longtime neighbor Darrell McNeill with an antique pistol in 2009. He told his family he was sexually assaulted by McNeill starting at the age of 11.
Vargas' family said he was tormented and stalked by McNeill who allegedly repeatedly raped him as a child and that leading up to the killing, McNeill had tried to befriend Aaron's fiancee and get close to their baby daughter.
The case sparked protests and letter campaigns in the tiny coastal community of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County. The residents, while shocked at the crime, wanted Vargas to eventually be free. He remains in a Ukiah jail.
No one disputes the killing. On the night of February 8, 2009, Vargas, 30, drove to McNeill's home with an antique pistol. The two argued briefly and Vargas admits he shot McNeill once.
Prosecutors say Vargas took the pistol apart at McNeill's home, leaving the pieces on the kitchen counter. McNeill's wife, who was home at the time, said Vargas told her that her husband had abused him for years. He even asked her not to call 911 until Darrell McNeill was dead.
As news of the killing spread, other men who said they had fallen victim to McNeill came forward.
Todd Rowan, a carpenter in Fort Bragg, admitted feeling some relief when he heard McNeill was dead.
"My first thought was, nobody is going to get hurt anymore. I felt for Aaron," Rowan said.
Richard Massingale said his little brother Jamie committed suicide just days after revealing his abuse at McNeill's hands.
"He told me this person (McNeill) was coming back into his life and harassing him. He kept saying, 'I just don't know what to do,'" Massingale said. "Four days later, my little brother killed himself. Shot himself in the head."
Prosecutors had said Vargas's past experiences did not justify murder but were reportedly swayed by the accounts of other alleged victims.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 20 in Ukiah. Vargas' penalty could range from probation to 10 years in prison.
"I don't think he consciously made a decision to take this into his hands," Aaron's mother Robin Vargas said. "I think he mentally broke as a result of being harassed by Darryl. He would not leave him alone. He needs counseling and to be with his fiancee and baby. He doesn't need prison."
by Cristina Mendonsa firstname.lastname@example.org