Rogelio J. Diaz
The Lincoln County District Courtroom was awash in the color purple Monday when family members and friends of the late Michelle Sprague Diaz attended the sentencing of Rogelio Diaz for attempting to murder his wife.
More than 20 people in the courtroom wore purple tee shirts as Diaz was sentenced to at least 18 and no more than 36 years in the Nebraska Penitentiary.
Diaz, 34, pleaded no contest on July 16 to attempted second degree murder. He will receive credit for more than year that he has already served in the Lincoln County Jail.
He was jailed June 27, 2011, two days after his wife Michelle was found dead. He was held on $2 million bond.
Before sentencing, defense attorney Stephen Potter told the court that it was a difficult case. He said prosecutors felt they showed proof the killing was intentional, without premeditation, but medical experts said they could not find more than one severe injury to Michelle’s head nor could they testify whether it was from a blow, or when her head hit the concrete when she fell.
Potter argued that the death was from falling off the steps. He submitted a deposition from Police Sgt. Steve Reeves, saying that it appeared Michelle had fallen off the steps and struck her head on the concrete at the bottom.
Potter said he advised Diaz to go to trial but said Diaz decided on his own to plead to the amended charge.
Diaz was first charged with second degree murder and faced a life sentence, but the charge was reduced to attempted second-degree murder, with a maximum of 50 years and minimum of five.
Diaz tearfully apologized to Michelle’s family and friends in the courtroom and thanked them for always being there in the past, when he and Michelle had tough times and he suffered from alcohol problems. He assured them that her death was not what he ever intended to happen. He said that he misses Michelle and his kids very much and thinks about them every day.
“I’m very sorry,” he said at the end of this statement. “That’s all I can leave you with now.”
Prior to sentencing, Lincoln County District Judge Donald Rowlands said he was taking into consideration that the defendant shows true remorse.
According to Nebraska State Statutes, attempted second degree murder means that a substantial step was taken in a course of conduct intended to culminate in the commission of an intentional killing of another person.
At his arraignment in July, Diaz told the court that he even though he pled no contest to the amended charge, he did nothing to cause the death of his wife. Defense attorney Stephen Potter said then that Diaz wanted to plead to the lesser charge to avoid pulling his children and family through the court as witnesses in a trial, and making them relive the tragedy over and over.
Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling said then that Diaz suspected his wife of cheating on him and the two had been arguing at the couple’s home at 1920 West 18th.
Harling said then that Rogelio grabbed her off the porch and threw her onto the patio, then called for a rescue crew. According to police, rescuers were called around 2 a.m. Police Lt. Rich Thompson said they found Michelle unresponsive and called police. Michelle was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at Great Plains Medical Center.
She left two children, ages 7 and 10.