EVERETT — Joseph Peralta left the courtroom cussing after being sentenced to 28 years in prison for a brutal attack on a young woman inside a Lynnwood drug store.
Peralta is 23. He nearly killed his teenage girlfriend last year, stabbing her more than a dozen times with a large knife after she ran from him. She had tried to hide out from the defendant while waiting for her mother to pick her up.
Peralta tracked her to a Rite Aid store on 196th Street, where she ran inside and begged employees to let her use a phone. A video captured Peralta coming up behind the woman and stabbing her over and over again.
The victim was found in a pool of blood measuring 8 feet by 9 feet. She had been stabbed in the head, face, neck, shoulders, arms and hands. The backpack she was wearing prevented her from being stabbed in the back, likely saving the 19-year-old’s life.
Peralta told detectives he didn’t remember the attack. He pleaded guilty last month to first-degree domestic violence assault while armed with a knife. Lawyers agreed to recommend a 23-year prison sentence. Peralta has previous convictions for violent crimes. This assault conviction is his second strike under the state’s persistent offender law.
At a hearing last week, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss said the defendant didn’t deserve leniency. Peralta hunted the woman down, the judge said.
The defendant is a gang member who allegedly threatened the woman and her family if they cooperated with police, according to court papers.
One of his fellow gang members showed up at last week’s hearing, according to police. The man called out to Peralta, who answered back with what police described as a possible gang chant. Snohomish County corrections officers intervened.
The victim started dating Peralta when she was 16. Peralta was violent from the beginning, beating the girl enough to leave bruises and cuts, according to court papers. On the day of the attack, the victim was at Peralta’s mother’s home. The defendant had been drinking and his behavior became aggressive. His mother encouraged the victim to leave.
The teen didn’t have a phone because Peralta had taken hers. She borrowed one to call her mother, asking for a ride home. She told her mom she was afraid that Peralta was going to kill her.
She bolted from the house, stopping at a grocery store. She borrowed a phone to call her mom again. She was frantic. The teen went from the grocery store to the drug store a few times, trying to stay out of sight.
“Eventually she was sitting on a bench located between the two stores, hoping her mom would find her before the defendant did,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Scott Halloran wrote in charging papers.
Peralta pulled up, demanded the woman get into his car. She ran into the Rite Aid, where employees directed her back to the manager’s office, where there was a phone capable of dialing out.
The woman was peering into the office window when she saw Peralta’s reflection as he came up behind her, wielding a knife.
She lost a liter of blood. The wounds required dozens of stitches and staples. She underwent surgery to repair shredded tendons. Doctors worried she would have permanent damage to her left arm and hand.
Peralta’s lawyer, public defender Natalie Tarantino, arranged for him to be evaluated by a mental health provider. The nurse also reviewed years of records from Child Protective Services involving Peralta and his family. Peralta frequently witnessed his father beat his mother and siblings, according to the nurse’s report. He, too, was a victim of abuse.
“He was repeatedly beaten at home by his mother and father, beaten when he was homeless, and beaten as a gang member,” the evaluator wrote.
“Children who are being mistreated and who live in an unpredictable and dangerous environment, learn very early to conform their behavior and personalities to survive,” she added.
Peralta is forbidden from contacting the victim ever again.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, there is free and confidential help through Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. The nonprofit provides emergency shelter, legal advocacy and support groups. Call the 24-hour hotline at 425-252-2873.