A Salem, Oregon man has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Cristian Acosta’s sentencing hearing included testimony from an expert in brain development to support his defense that the decision-making part of his brain was not fully developed.
In September 19, 2016, 20-year-old Lucia Pamatz called 911 to report that her ex-boyfriend, Cristian Acosta, was trying to break into her her home. Pamatz already had a restraining order against Acosta.
The dispatcher told Pamatz to hide in the bathroom. Pamatz barricaded herself in the bathroom and stayed on the phone with the dispatcher. The dispatcher heard Acosta shoot at the bathroom door and Pamatz beg for her life. Acosta shot Pamatz two times, once in the side of the head and once in the chest.
Acosta fled the scene and was arrested while trying to cross the Canadian border. He pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, stating, “I broke into Lucia Pamatz’s apartment after she got home. . . . I knew she did not want me to go in, but I broke in anyway. . . . While in the apartment, I shot and killed (her) with a firearm.”
This was not Acosta’s first encounter with the law. Acosta had previously been convicted of fourth-degree assault of Pamatz in May 2016. Pamatz obtained a restraining order against Acosta after his arrest, stating that he had access to firearms and that she felt he was capable of hurting her and others.
When he was in the sixth grade, Acosta was expelled for bringing a knife to school. When he was 17, Acosta pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and was sentenced to probation. Acosta also admitted to sexually abusing five young boys and inappropriately touching female family members while they slept.
At Acosta’s sentencing hearing, his attorneys argued for a life sentence with a possibility of parole after 30 years. The crime that Acosta pleaded to, aggravated murder, carries a life sentence without possibility of parole unless there are mitigating circumstances present like age, emotional distress, or mental incapacity.
Defense attorney Spencer Todd argued that, although the crime was heinous, 30 years may have a positive impact on Acosta. Additionally, Todd argued that although Acosta was an adult at the time of the murder, his brain was not fully developed, making him susceptible to irrational and impulsive decision-making.
Dr. Kristen Mackiewicz Seghete testified as an expert witness on brain development. Mackiewicz Seghete is a licensed psychologist and assistant professor at Oregon Health and Science University. Mackiewicz Seghete testified that different parts of the brain develop at different rates and that the portion of the brain that is responsible for making decisions may not be developed until someone is in their mid-20s.
The prosecutor cross-examined Mackiewicz Seghete and asked whether behaviors such as stalking, sexual assault and abusive relationships were specific to brain development. Mackiewicz Seghete responded that they were not.
Marion County Judge Courtland Geyer sentenced Cristian Acosta to life without the possibility of parole.