By Associated Press
POMONA, Calif. (AP) — A convicted child rapist pleaded no contest Monday to sexually assaulting and killing two young boys in the 1980s in Southern California.
Kenneth Rasmuson, 59, entered pleas to two counts of murder with the special circumstance that he committed multiple killings. He is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole on April 27.
The case was marked by conflict over District Attorney George Gascón’s reform policies — which in general bar the filling of special-circumstance allegations — and prompted the DA of neighboring Orange County to file his own case against Rasmuson out of concern that he might one day be eligible for parole.
Rasmuson was accused of abducting and killing 6-year-old Jeffrey Vargo, who disappeared on July 2, 1981 after he left his house in Anaheim Hills in Orange County to look at a fireworks stand.
His body was found the next day at a construction site in Pomona, in eastern L.A. County.
“We are finally putting an end to this,” Jeffrey Vargo’s mother, Connie Vargo, said at a news conference. “I just wanted it to be over.”
Rasmuson also was accused of kidnapping, stabbing and strangling 6-year-old Miguel Antero, who vanished on April 8, 1986 after stepping off of a school bus near his Agoura Hills home. His body was found that day in a wash near his home in the northwestern county.
Decades later, DNA evidence linked Rasmuson to the slayings, prosecutors said. In 2015, he was arrested at his parents’ home Sandpoint, Idaho, where he had been living as a registered sex offender.
Rasmuson spent 17 years in prison for the 1980s molestation of an 11-year-old boy in Santa Barbara County and a 3-year-old Los Angeles boy. After serving his time, he was committed to a state mental hospital as a dangerous sex offender but was released in 2007.
Because he was charged with murder with special circumstances, Rasmuson could have been eligible for the death penalty. However, Gascón has barred prosecutors from seeking the death penalty on grounds that a capital sentence could lead to decades of costly appeals with little chance of an execution.
California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006. There are currently more than 700 people on California’s death row and Gov. Gavin Newsom has put a moratorium on executions so long as he is governor.
Gascón last year also barred prosecutors in general from filling special circumstance allegations that can add prison time but under community pressure he later made an exception in certain cases, including those involving child sexual abuse. Several judges also had blocked his office’s attempts to dismiss sentencing enhancements.
Last week, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said he also was charging Rasmuson with the killing of Jeffrey Vargo out of concern that Gascón intended to drop the special circumstance allegation.
“This was a heinous offense and this individual will not share the sidewalk with the rest of us,” Gascón said in a statement. “The defendant was always facing life in prison,” and noted that the special circumstance allegation hadn’t been dismissed “due to a recent court ruling.”
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