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July 20, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Menlo Park killing: Charges reduced to manslaughter Menlo Park killing: Charges reduced to manslaughter (July 20, 2005)

A Menlo Park woman who stabbed and killed her boyfriend last summer agreed to a plea bargain in which murder charges are being dropped in exchange for a conviction of voluntary manslaughter.

Blanca Estella Rivas, 23, will return to San Mateo County Superior Court on August 12 for sentencing. Under the plea agreement, she would be sentenced to seven years in prison, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Ms. Rivas stabbed 21-year-old Jose Arita in the throat after an argument at a birthday party on August 8, 2004, at the couple's Hamilton Avenue home, said the District Attorney's Office.

After stabbing Mr. Arita, Ms. Rivas stabbed herself in the neck and was hospitalized for two weeks in intensive care before being arrested on murder charges.

Ms. Rivas was legally drunk at the time of the incident, and the couple had had a physical and verbal confrontation moments before the stabbing, said Deputy District Attorney Morris Maya, who prosecuted the case.

A witness to the incident who was inside the house at the time and who testified in a January preliminary hearing said Mr. Arita and Ms. Rivas were arguing outside the front door and that Mr. Arita had pushed Ms. Rivas inside and said: "This is it. This is the last time. I'm going to kill you now."

Ms. Rivas then left the hallway and reappeared with a knife, saying, "I'm going to get you before you get me," the witness said. Mr. Arita grabbed Ms. Rivas' hands, but she broke free and stabbed him, the witness said.

In making his case before Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum for reducing the murder charges to voluntary manslaughter, Mr. Maya, the prosecuting attorney, said Ms. Rivas' case showed "substantial evidence of imperfect self-defense," adding that she had an "honest but unsubstantiated" belief that she needed to defend herself.

-- Report by Bay City News

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