Man pleads guilty to raping, killing Las Vegas girl in 1994
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada man has been convicted of raping and killing a 7-year-old girl more than 25 years after her death.
Gregory Wallen, 47, pleaded guilty Monday to murder and sexual assault of a minor, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported .
Las Vegas police found the body of Diana Hernandez in a cardboard box in a trash bin the day after she went missing in April 1994.
Investigators arrested Wallen in 2009, 15 years after the crime, when DNA on the body and a fingerprint on the box tied him to the crime. Wallen had lived in the same apartment building as the Hernandez family.
Investigators also learned Wallen was a registered sex offender, and he was arrested in 1992 for sexual assault in Pahrump.
Wallen remained in custody for 10 years and had several changes of attorneys while investigators found that he suffered a traumatic head injury at age 3 or 4, and was diagnosed with autism in 1985, deputy public defender Julia Murray said.
Prosecutors agreed to drop the death penalty in exchange for Wallen’s guilty plea.
Diana’s mother, Maria Samano watched the court proceedings Monday. She was joined by her daughters Estela Hernandez and Adriana Morales, Diana’s twin sister.
“We weren’t ready to hear all this,” Samano said. “I wasn’t ready. I know it was going to happen, but you’re never ready.”
Wallen’s plea agreement calls for two sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“Everything’s still going to be the same, but I hope he dies soon,” Samano said after the hearing.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com