Woodstock man faces possible life imprisonment, deportation

WOODSTOCK — Through an interpreter, a local man originally from Guatemala entered an Alford plea of guilty on Wednesday to the rape of an 11-year-old girl.

The defendant, Hector Vicente Pelico, 29,  faces the possibility of deportation as a result of the Alford plea in which a person maintains his innocence but is pleading guilty because it is in his best interest to do so.

Pelico was originally charged with having sex with a minor under the age of 13, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment when the offender is over 18 years old, but the plea agreement amended the charge to rape, which carries a sentence of five years to life imprisonment. The prosecution dropped the three other rape-related charges against Pelico as part of the plea agreement.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola explained to the court that the victim believed that she was in a relationship with Pelico, and that she, through an interpreter, said that she was in love with Pelico in February 2016 when the offense occurred. Campola also explained that the victim and the victim’s mother did not want to testify and were happy about not having to do so as a result of the plea agreement.

Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp noted that the felony conviction would likely lead to Pelico’s deportation, and Pelico said through the interpreter that he understood the potential consequences.

After accepting the plea agreement, which contained no sentencing recommendations, Hupp ordered a sex offender evaluation in addition to the pre-sentencing investigation. Sentencing  is scheduled for Aug. 23 in Shenandoah County Circuit Court.