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Guilty plea in Piute County teen's murder

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jun 12, 2023

JUNCTION, Utah — Rosa Nunez hugged her mother, Irma, outside court after the young man accused of killing her sister pleaded guilty to the crime.

"We got the best that we could get and that’s all we can ask for at this point," she told FOX 13 News.

Francisco Aguilar, 17, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder on Monday in connection with the death of 16-year-old Jacqueline Nunez back in January. She had been shot-to-death and left on a dirt road in Piute County. The crime shocked the small, south-central Utah community. At a memorial, friends remembered her as "smiling and straightforward."

"Super sassy and sweet and loving and caring she was, and she will always be," Rosa said of her sister.

FOX 13 News typically does not name juvenile defendants, but Aguilar was charged — and convicted — in the adult court system because of the heinous nature of the crime. He does not face the death penalty because he is still a teenager, but will instead face 25 years-to-life in prison when he is sentenced in August.

In court, Aguilar looked straight ahead and spoke in a flat tone of voice as he answered the judge's questions. Piute County Attorney Scott Burns said Aguilar shot Jacqueline and then shot at a friend as she tried to flee from him.

"Are those true facts?" Sixth District Court Judge Marvin Bagley asked Aguilar.

"Yes, your honor," he replied.

"Did it happen?"

"Yes, your honor."

"And you did it?"

"Yes, your honor."

Aguilar's defense attorney declined to comment to FOX 13 News outside of court.

"I just don’t know why," Irma Nunez sobbed. "Why he did what he did. She had such a bright future ahead and I don't understand why he did what he did. She was a girl that the whole world loved, and I just don't understand why."

An exact motive remains a mystery in the case, Burns said.

"It has been so heartbreaking to cry with the mother and father and her siblings. Just a beautiful, 16 year-old girl. Executed, quite frankly," he said. "Shot in the head at point blank range. There is no why. He doesn’t know why. They were in an argument. They were in a fight and he was angry. But that isn’t a why."

Rosa said her family is glad to have only one more hearing to attend — Aguilar's sentencing — so they can not have to deal with it for at least 25 years.

"It was a lot. It just brought back all the raw emotions again. Knowing that he finally plead guilty and he knows. But yet we haven’t seen any emotion from him and that’s been the hardest part," she said.