Family speaks out against plea agreement

Posted at 7:13 AM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 12:08:53-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Angelina Betz was only 26 years old when she tragically lost her life. Now her family says they’re devastated and angry, knowing the woman held responsible for her death could possibly be out of prison before she’s even 30, thanks to the current plea agreement.

"We never thought that this would be the outcome," said Serena Recalde, Betz's younger sister.

In August of 2020, Jennifer Maldonado was charged with first degree murder, but earlier this month she plead no contest to the lesser charge of volunteer manslaughter.

Recalde and Hayley O’Conner say they’ve gone to every court hearing they could since the death of their sister.

"She got along with basically everyone she met, like it didn't matter what kind of background they have, she got along with them," O'Conner said.

According to court documents, Betz died on may 21, 2020, after she was stabbed multiple times. The documents also say that on that evening, Betz was confronted by a woman she knew through mutual acquaintances. That woman was Maldonado.

According to documents, witnesses told police Maldonado confronted Betz quote “over a relationship with a guy.” During the incident, Maldonado stabbed Betz in her left leg, fatally severing her femoral artery. Then a witness tried to drive Betz to a hospital but crashed at the intersection of Niles Street and Mount Vernon Avenue.

After Maldonado’s arrest in January of 2021, Betz’s family was hopeful that they would see justice for their loved one.

“I know, I want to believe that they did everything they could, but it’s hard to believe given what we’ve been told this whole time," Recalde said.

Their hopes changed when earlier in March, they discovered Maldonado was pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter — facing 8 years and 8 months in prison. Betz’s family saying they were stunned and confused.

“Lack of evidence, lack of witnesses, there were a lot of people who wouldn’t cooperate," Recalde said. "I want to say that we’re really mad at a lot of people.”

Court documents state that a number of witnesses were questioned regarding the stabbing. They even detail how one witness told police they saw the Maldonado stab Betz, but that the witness refused to sign a lineup after positively identifying Maldonado.

“For me, I’ve had thoughts and feelings about it this whole time, and I feel kind of defeated now because we can’t do much now," O'Conner said.

For Betz’s sisters, they say they understand the difficulties and complexities that come with prosecuting murder cases, but the shock of the plea agreement has left them angry.

“You see it on the news about people getting short sentences and you don’t think it’s going to happen to you and when it does, it’s just a weird feeling," Recalde said.

The District Attorney's Office said they could not comment on the case as sentencing is still pending. Maldanado is set to sentenced on April 27.