On Wednesday afternoon, the jury came back with a decision in the case against Carlos Varela, the Oxnard resident who killed former 29-year-old UCSB student Holly Lake in August 2005. The jury needed less than five hours to decide that Varela was guilty of first-degree murder, a charge that could result in a life sentence. The prosecutor Josh Lynn and the Lake family were overjoyed to hear the news.
Whether or not Varela committed the crime was never in question; he admitted to the murder and directed police to Lake’s body, which was dumped where Gibraltar Road connects with East Camino Cielo in the mountains above Santa Barbara. But earlier this week, Varela’s defense attorney Steven Balash called the suspect to the stand in hopes of showing the jury that the murder was a crime of passion, a manslaughter offense that carries a much lesser prison term. The jury didn’t buy it.
Next up for Varela is sentencing, which will be done by Judge Brian Hill, who presided over the case.