FLORENCE — A Maricopa man entered a guilty plea Monday, admitting to two counts of murder in a double homicide that occurred in Maricopa in the summer of 2015.
Jose Valenzuela, 42, was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder in the killing of Michael and Tina Careccia of Maricopa in June 2015. He was accused of shooting the couple with a .22 Magnum handgun following a dispute at his home.
The couple was found buried on Valenzuela’s property after 11 days.
Soon after his arrest, he pleaded not guilty, but on Monday, he changed his plea to guilty of second-degree murder in Michael’s death and first-degree murder in Tina’s death.
Prosecutors in the case had previously filed a notice to seek the death penalty. With a guilty plea, Valenzuela gives up his right to a jury trial and faces a likely life sentence without parole on the first-degree murder charge and 10 to 25 years on the second-degree murder charge. He will also be required to pay restitution to the victims’ families.
In his change of plea statement, Valenzuela admitted to shooting Michael Careccia following a struggle. He also admitted to restraining Tina Careccia, then shooting her in the head.
Families of the victims and the accused sat on opposite sides of the courtroom Monday as the change of plea statement was read.
The victims’ family agreed to wait until sentencing to make an impact statement and asked that a financial decision regarding restitution amount also be delayed until sentencing.
Sentencing has been set for 9 a.m. Aug. 13. As he awaits sentencing, Valenzuela will remain in jail without bond.