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BY KEITH EPPS
A man who stabbed a roadside sign-carrier 13 times for no apparent reason pleaded guilty to two charges Wednesday in Stafford Circuit Court.
Mario R. Benavidez, 28, of Stafford County was convicted of malicious wounding and wounding in the commission of a felony. He will face a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison when he is sentenced March 28.
According to the evidence presented by prosecutor Sandra Park, victim Eric Grier was outside 2771 Jefferson Davis Highway in North Stafford holding a sign advertising Jazzercise classes when the brutal attack took place. It was Grier's first day of a scheduled three-day temporary job.
Benavidez walked by, then attacked Grier without provocation.
Grier was stabbed in the throat, arms and chest and was rushed to a local hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery for life-threatening injuries.
Park said Grier still has extensive scarring, but has mostly recovered.
Benavidez fled after stabbing Grier, but was apprehended less than a half-mile away by a Stafford sheriff's deputy. The owner of the shopping center, Don Hart, came to Grier's aid and assisted him until medical personnel arrived.
Park said Benavidez told police that he felt threatened by the sign holder, so he attacked him.
Defense attorney Vince Ventura tried to have Benavidez declared not guilty by reason of insanity, but doctors at Central State Hospital in Petersburg ruled that the attacker was sane at the time. Ventura acknowledged that Grier did nothing to provoke the attack.
Ventura said that despite the doctors' ruling, Benavidez clearly has mental health issues and needs treatment while he is incarcerated.
"This is not a guy who is just cold-hearted and doesn't care," his attorney said. "This is a guy who needs some help."
In exchange for Benavidez's guilty pleas, Park reduced an aggravated malicious charge that carried a potential life sentence.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404