Man gets 30 years for death of cellmate at Washington State Reformatory in Monroe

EVERETT — Two mothers sat in a Snohomish County courtroom on Wednesday and mourned for their sons.

Daniel Jay Perez, 21, was ordered to spend the next 30 years in prison for the murder of Cory Garzina, 24.

A jury in January found Perez guilty of second-degree murder with a deadly weapon. He strangled Garzina with the drawstring from his sweatpants June 19, 2006, while the two men shared a cell at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, jurors concluded.

Perez likely won’t be free until he’s in his 50s.

Garzina won’t get a chance to come home.

“What we have is a brutal and senseless act,” Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair said.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor George Appel asked the judge to give Perez a maximum prison term under state sentencing guidelines. He argued that Perez hadn’t shown any remorse and essentially denied involvement in the unprovoked attack against Garzina.

“The defendant has failed to give the court any grounds for leniency,” Appel said.

Public defender Caroline Mann argued for a lower sentence, saying Perez has a long and well-documented history of mental health problems. He didn’t plan to kill the victim, she said. He was hearing voices and believed he was acting in self-defense, Mann said.

“This came out of a crisis of mental health,” she said.

Perez, wearing a bright orange prison jumpsuit, apologized to Garzina’s family.

Garzina was found under a bunk of a fourth-level, two-man cell. Investigators found a cord wrapped around his neck, embedded into his flesh.

Initially, Perez confessed to the slaying, but at his January trial, he told jurors the marks found on his hands that day came from a unique suicide attempt. He testified that he was afraid of two other inmates who were the killers, so he tore the elastic waistband from his underwear and used it to try to strangle himself, causing the marks on his hands.

Fair ordered jurors back to the courtroom in March after she learned a juror had experimented with his own underwear during the trial. Fair ruled that the experiment approached juror misconduct, but that the evidence was so overwhelming that the juror’s actions didn’t affect the verdict that Perez should not receive a new trial.

Perez had been serving time for vehicular homicide and theft. He was within months of being released. Garzina, who was convicted of theft and trafficking in stolen property, was about a month from being freed.

As Garzina’s tearful mother left the courtroom on Wednesday, she placed her hand on the shoulder of Perez’s mother. The two women embraced, both weeping for their sons.

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@heraldnet.com.

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