Tori Beth DeHerrera has pleaded guilty to the 2022 killing of Ricardo Francisco Vega at a Douglas hotel. The plea came after the Cochise County Attorney’s Office agreed to drop a premeditated first degree murder charge that carried a life sentence.
DeHerrera, 25, was slated to take part in a settlement conference later this month in hopes of resolving the case without need for a trial. But the negotiations went smoother than expected, leading to a change of plea hearing on May 31.
During the hearing, DeHerrera pleaded guilty to second degree murder for her actions in shooting Vega inside his hotel room on March 20, 2022. The parties stipulated that DeHerrera will be sentenced to a day-for-day prison sentence of 16 years.
Such sentences, which are also referred to as a flat term, are not eligible for early release credits.
DeHerrera also pleaded guilty to use of methamphetamine for which she will be placed on probation for two years upon her release from prison. She has remained in the Cochise County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail since her arrest a few hours after Vega died.
Sentencing will take place in a few weeks.
Public records show Vega, DeHerrera, and several others were partying in Vega’s room at the Traveler’s Hotel for a few hours prior to a 911 call at about 4:40 a.m. of a man found shot. A witness reported hearing two gunshots several minutes before, but police were not called until a hotel worker used a pass key to check on Vega, whose last known address was in Mesa.
Vega, 42, died at the scene. He had been staying at the hotel for several weeks, according to court documents.
DeHerrera was quickly identified by witnesses as a personal of interest. She was taken into custody a few hours later and admitted doing drugs in Vega’s room.
Initially DeHerrera denied involvement in the shooting but her statement later changed to one of self-defense, claiming Vega “was coming at me” prior to firing the gun.
The murder weapon along with two spent shell casings was found in the hotel room.
The autopsy report notes Vega had been shot twice. One entrance wound was at the upper left back. The bullet penetrated the skin and soft tissues of the back before it fractured a posterior left rib and passed into Vega’s right cheek of the mouth where it was recovered in front of and slightly below the right ear.
The second gunshot entrance wound was found behind the left ear. The bullet then exited the left cheek.
The trajectory of both gunshot wounds was determined to be back to front and left to right. The autopsy report also noted blunt force injuries to Vega’s head, described as two “irregular red contusions” unrelated to the gunshot wounds.
A toxicology report obtained from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner shows Vega had a high level of fentanyl and an extreme level of methamphetamine in his blood at the time of his death.
The results of any drug testing conducted on DeHerrera has not been admitted into the court file.