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Sexual predator sentenced to life behind bars for 1980s killings of two 6-year-old boys

A sexual predator who evaded capture for more than three decades was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of two 6-year-old boys who were abducted near their homes in Anaheim Hills and Agoura Hills.

Kenneth Rasmuson, shackled next to his attorney in a Pomona courtroom, showed no emotion as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Juan Carlos Dominguez sentenced him under a plea bargain arranged in February with the District Attorney’s Office. Rasmuson pleaded no contest to the 1981 strangulation of Jeffrey Vargo of Anaheim Hills and the 1986 stabbing death of Miguel Antero of Agoura Hills.

Friends and family of both boys filled the courtroom and several took turns condemning Rasmuson, describing him as a “monster” who shattered their lives and left them with “anger and emptiness.”

“I had hoped to be at your execution because I wanted to look in your eyes and see the same terror that my son saw at his last moment,” Jeffrey’s father, Bob Vargo, told Rasmuson, 59.

This photo of Jeffrey Vargo taken was taken in the spring of 1981. Jeffrey was kidnapped and murdered on July 2, 1981. Jeffrey’s accused killer, Kenneth Rasmuson, was arrested in 2015 and hasn’t yet gone to trial. (Photo courtesy of Bob and Connie Vargo)

Jeffrey was riding his bike on July 2, 1981, in his quiet neighborhood when Rasmuson kidnapped him. His partially clothed body was found the next day 25 miles away at a construction site in Pomona’s Phillips Ranch neighborhood.

Nearly five years later, on April 8, 1986, Miguel was snatched by Rasmuson after he stepped off a school bus. He was stabbed multiple times and his body was discovered the same day in a wash in an Agoura Hills canyon.

It wasn’t until 2015 that DNA evidence led to the arrest of Rasmuson, whose criminal history included convictions for sexually assaulting two other Southern California boys in 1981 and 1987.

Murders destroyed families

During Tuesday’s hearing, Jeffrey’s mother, Connie Vargo, wept as she described the heartache of losing her son and the profound impact the murder has had on her family. “We were a happy family but we had to go on with our lives,” she said. “I still don’t know why (this had to happen).”

Michael Vargo, Jeffrey’s older brother, described him as his best friend. “Jeffrey was taken too soon,” he said.

Additionally, Derrick Eastman, a childhood friend of Jeffrey, said the murder left him and other children in the neighborhood traumatized.

“Nobody should have to endure what they did that day,” he said, describing Rasmuson as a “monster.” “Something was stolen. And that something was my best friend’s life. My only hope is that Jeffrey is resting in peace and that justice will be served.”

Gil Antero, Miguel’s dad, said Rasmuson’s actions have devastated his family. “It has shattered our lives to pieces,” he said. “Miguel was a wonderful little boy, caring and full of joy.”

Miguel’s mother, Ani Bradshaw, told the court a part of her died when her son was murdered. “Losing a child is like losing your own existence,” she said. “There is anger and emptiness.”



Legal tug-of-war

Rasmuson’s sentencing officially ended a short-lived effort by Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer to wrestle the Vargo case away from Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who has expressed opposition to capital punishment and sentences of life in prison without parole.

In February, Spitzer intervened in the case — charging Rasmuson with murder with special circumstances and filing a motion to take the case away from Gascón — after reading a Southern California News Group article in which the Vargos expressed fears that justice would not be served.

Spitzer also signaled his intent to seek the death penalty, if he was granted jurisdiction in the case, in spite of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on capital punishment.

Gascón described Spitzer’s attempt to wrestle away the case as misguided, adding Los Angeles County prosecutors had long been working on a plea agreement to keep Rasmuson behind bars for the rest of his life. He pleaded no contest to the murder charges in February.

“This was a heinous offense and this individual will not share the sidewalk with the rest of us,” Gascon said in a statement. “The defendant was always facing life in prison, making the rhetoric from tough-on-crime voices incredibly dangerous and entirely removed from reality.”

Gascón vehemently opposes the death penalty “because of its disparate application, absent deterrence effect, extraordinary cost to taxpayers, and because it subjects victims to decades of appeals — forcing them to relive their trauma,” he said in the statement.

Late last year, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, which represents about 850 prosecutors, filed a civil suit challenging the legality of Gascón’s directives, including abolishing sentencing enhancements that can add years to a defendant’s prison term.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled in February that Gascón’s initiative regarding enhancements violates state law in a large number of cases

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Kelsey McKeever-Unger, who prosecuted the case against Rasmuson, disputed Gascon’s assertion that a plea bargain had long been in the works. She credited the ADDA lawsuit, Chalfant’s ruling and Spitzer’s efforts with forcing Gascon’s hand.

“I don’t think this would have happened without the ADDA lawsuit and the other intervention”, she said.

Source: Orange County Register

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