The trial of an Ajo man accused of sexually assaulting and murdering a 7-year-old girl started Tuesday with the defense attorney acknowledging his client did it.
But attorney Brian Metcalf asserted Kyle Alegria was too mentally unstable to comprehend his actions.
Alegria, who was 19 at the time, is accused of killing Rhia Almeida, a friend of his younger brother who had come to the house to play on June 18, 2009. The younger boy was not home, however, having gone on vacation with his grandparents to Disneyland, Deputy Pima County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said.
That was the last time anyone saw the girl alive. Her badly beaten body was found in a wash just feet away from Alegria’s house.
“There were multiple stab wounds to her face, neck and chest,” Unklesbay told the jury in his opening statement. “Multiple stab wounds to this 7-year-old girl.” In addition, Rhia had multiple blunt-force traumas to her head and had been raped.
“The defendant caused enormous suffering to this little girl,” Unklesbay said.
Metcalf agreed, telling the jury his client was responsible for Rhia’s death, but adding Alegria was debilitated with lifelong mental illness and in a psychotic state at the time of the killing.
“Kyle Alegria is guilty, but he’s insane, he was insane at the time,” Metcalf said.
Metcalf described his client as an outcast fraught with depression and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. He had spent months in a residential treatment facility a few years before the killing, where he was treated for depressive disorder and put on medication.
But once he left the facility, his treatment ended and he receded back into the dark world of his depression, Metcalf said.
He described how Alegria spent days on end without leaving his bedroom at his parents’ house, watching pornography and collecting his own urine in bottles. At one point, he tried to take his own life by overdosing on the medication doctors had prescribed for him.
In testimony, his father said Alegria had been troubled and suicidal for much of his life. “He had been like that ever since he was born; he didn’t like himself,” Loretto Alegria said.
On the night Rhia was killed, Loretto Alegria and his wife had been out of town shopping. When they came home, he testified, Kyle Alegria was cleaning the house. His father said the behavior was out of character for his son. He described how the house smelled of bleach and his son had changed the sheets in his mother’s bedroom.
Later that night, Loretto Alegria said, his son made two trips from the house carrying plastic bags full of unknown items. Police later found the bags with evidence like bloody towels.
Unklesbay said Kyle Alegria’s attempts to conceal the girl’s body in the wash and cleaning the crime scene and disposing of evidence makes it clear he knew what he did was wrong.
Throughout the trial’s first day, Kyle Alegria sat motionless, slumped over with his elbows on his knees. He rarely looked up from the floor and opted to forgo his right to wear street clothes during the trial, instead wearing the orange uniform of a jail inmate.
His attorneys argued Alegria has a death wish and wants the jury to sentence him to death. He is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 15. His trial continues today in Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini’s courtroom.