Published August 22, 2009
OMAHA, Neb. – A Nebraska man who stole a painting of the Virgin Mary to finance an abortion for a teen he raped has been convicted of first-degree sexual assault and felony theft.
Aurelio Vallerillo-Sanchez, 39, of Omaha pleaded no contest to the charges Friday and faces up to 70 years in prison when sentenced in October, Douglas County prosecutor Brenda Beadle said Saturday.
A call to the county public defender representing Vallerillo-Sanchez wasn't answered Saturday.
Beadle said Vallerillo-Sanchez fled to Mexico with the 300-year-old painting worth $100,000 and the pregnant teen in March 2007.
"The plan was that when they got to Mexico, she was to undergo an abortion," she said.
When an abortion wasn't possible, Vallerillo-Sanchez pushed to have the baby given up for adoption, Beadle said: "He wanted to do everything he could to get rid of this baby 'cause it was evidence against him."
The teen returned to Nebraska after giving birth, the prosecutor said.
Vallerillo-Sanchez was arrested in February after DNA linked him to the September 2006 assault of the then-14-year-old girl.
His children gave police information about the theft during the investigation into the sexual assault. His son told police he served as a lookout as his father stole the painting from St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha. Vallerillo-Sanchez sold the painting for $3,000 in Mexico, his daughter told police.
Vallerillo-Sanchez has been linked to at least four other thefts in the Omaha area, but charges were not filed as part of a plea deal, Beadle said.