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Dulce Rios accepts plea deal for attempted murder of Jacqueline Pickett

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Posted: Thursday, April 6, 2017 8:31 pm

Dulce Rios, 18, of Lodi, pleaded guilty on Thursday morning at the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton to attempted murder of 22-year-old Jacqueline Pickett.

Rios agreed to a plea deal, once she was restored to competency after receiving treatment in a mental health facility. In exchange, she agreed that she would be sentenced to the maximum term for attempted murder with an additional year for the enhancement of using a deadly weapon — 10 years in state prison total — according to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office.

“I’m just really relieved. I’m looking forward to our family being able to move forward,” said Amber Gomes, Pickett’s mother. She was happy that they were able to resolve the matter without having to see her daughter testify for the court and still have justice served for what happened. 

Rios was arrested on Jan. 4, 2016 after she attacked Pickett with a baseball bat in Beckman Park in Lodi.

A local man, Jeffrey Leach was first on the scene that day to stop the attack and hold Rios, who was 17 at the time, there for police to arrive and take into custody. Pickett was severely injured, suffering from a broken skull and a traumatic brain injury, and was transported to an area hospital.

Rios showed signs of mental health issues and gave no rational motive for the attack to the police investigators, according to the district attorney’s office. She was also set to be tried as an adult for the crime.

After her arraignment, Rios was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and was ordered to receive treatment. Due to the fact that she was a minor at the time of the incident, the proceedings became complicated. 

The court struggled for months to find a place for Rios to receive mental health treatment, because some facilities were not equipped to deal with minors. When she turned 18, Rios was transferred to the county jail. She received treatment briefly at the Napa State Hospital and also while in jail until she was able to be considered legally competent. 

Adding to the difficulty in this case was the recent introduction of California Proposition 57, which stated that juvenile cases must be heard first in juvenile court before they can be transferred to the adult criminal court and tried as an adult. 

Previously, prosecutors had the right to file charges against juvenile offenders in adult court. Whether or not this change was retroactive was ambiguous in the text provided to voters and in the approved law.

The defense made a motion to transfer Rios to juvenile court under this law, but that motion was rejected by the court in December last year. They followed up with an appeal to the Third District Court of Appeals. 

Included with the plea deal Rios accepted on Thursday, she waived any appeal rights on the issue and had the robbery charge dismissed, the district attorney’s office said.

Rios will return to court on June 21 for sentencing. She will serve 85 percent of the 10 years in state prison and will be credited for time already served behind bars. 

At that hearing, Pickett and her family will be given an opportunity to address the court. They will be assisted by the district attorney’s victim advocacy services, according to the district attorney’s office.

“It’s been a long nightmare. I wish I was doing as well as Jackie has taken this. It’s just unbelievable. I’m ready for us to move forward,” Gomes said. 

Contact reporter Christina Cornejo at christinac@lodinews.com.

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