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Mesiti pleads guilty in exchange for dropping of death penalty
Mark Mesiti in court
Mark Mesiti in court earlier this month.

Mark Edward Mesiti, the former Ceres resident standing trial for the 2006 murder of his 14-year-old daughter Alycia, decided Tuesday to plead guilty in exchange for the District Attorney's dropping the death penalty.

The plea ended the trial and means Mesiti, 49, now faces life without the possibility of parole in state prison. The unexpected action means Mesiti has been convicted of first-degree murder with four special circumstances, and 48 other felony sexual assault crimes.

After several weeks of ongoing jury trial, the defense offered to have Mesiti plead to all the counts charged if the District Attorney's Office would agree to not seek the death penalty. In return, Mesiti would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. As a condition of accepting that offer, Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees required Mesiti to make a personal and public allocution of all his crimes in open court.

"I hope this represents the end of a tortuous 11-year process for these families," said Rees.

Mesiti was in his third week of trial in the Stanislaus County Superior Court. The trial started Oct. 3 with a Stanislaus County prosecutor saying forensic computer examination revealed Mesiti was in possession of hundreds of thousands of images involving child pornography. Hundreds of those images showed Mesiti's daughter being sexually assaulted while she was obviously unconscious. Videos also showed the defendant setting up a hidden camera in the bedroom of an 8-year-old girl who lived in the apartment with him and his girlfriend at the time. Other videos and images showed a 16-year-old female Mesiti had befriended being sexually assaulted.

On Tuesday Mesiti pled guilty to all the charges and publicly admitted that on several occasions he had given controlled substances - including prescription anti-depressants, benzodiazepines, morphine and methadone - to his 14-year-old daughter for the purpose of rendering her unconscious and with the specific intent to sexually assault her. Mesiti told the court he committed rape, sodomy, oral copulation, digital penetration and child molestation involving his daughter, Alycia, many times over several different occasions. He admitted having given Alycia drugs on each occasion to make her unable to resist his attacks. Mesiti also admitted that his administration of those drugs caused Alycia's death.

Mesiti also admitted taking many sexually explicit photographs of his daughter Alycia and two other minors under 18 years of age. He also said he molested the other two minors while he lived in Los Angeles. Upon conclusion of the hour-long plea involving all 49 counts charged in the indictment, Judge Dawna Frenchie Reeves found Mesiti guilty of those crimes.

Judge Reeves set the case for sentencing and victim impact statements on Nov. 28 in Department 1 of the Stanislaus County Superior Court.

The girl's body was dug up in the backyard of Mesiti's rented Alexis Court home nearly three years later when Ceres Police developed suspicions about him killing and burying her on the west Ceres property.

Rees said Alycia was unconscious at the time of the molestations, which occurred between July 2006 and July 2008. She said police seized his computers, hard drives, memory cards and DVRs which contained photographic images of Mesiti sexually assaulting his daughter while she was blacked out on drugs. They also found other child pornography images and videos on Mesiti's devices.

Mesiti faced the death penalty upon conviction of the murder and a total of 44 criminal counts, mostly sexual crimes. However, the last time anyone was executed under the death penalty in California was in 2006.

A toxicological analysis of the remains of the 14-year-old indicated she died from intoxication from a mixture of drugs - opiates, amphetamines, morphine and anti-depressants - and prosecutors said Mark Mesiti is responsible. The exact cause of death has not been determined by the forensic pathologist.

During the trial, Mesiti's defense attorney, Martin Baker, claimed that Alycia was a drug addict for two years and died from her own intake of drugs. Baker based his defense on a diary allegedly written by Alycia in which she wrote that if she turned up dead it would be because she killed herself. In one passage, said Baker, the girl wrote that she "wanted to feel nothing."

He predicted the way which Alycia died "will require a not guilty verdict."

The trial was expected to last for months with the prosecution team poised to include testimony of one of Alycia's friends who noted she stayed away from hard drugs.

Alycia's body was wrapped in black plastic sheeting and buried in the yard before Mesiti was evicted and moved to Los Angeles. Police exhumed the backyard in March 2009.

Mesiti was arrested by Ceres Police in Los Angeles three days after his daughter's body was discovered. Mesiti moved from Ceres about six months after Alycia was reported missing but police traced him to a Los Angeles apartment which had been used by him as a methamphetamine lab. Mesiti's girlfriend, Shelly Welborn helped testify against Mesiti in the drug trial in which he was sentenced to five years.

Alycia had been reported missing two days after her alleged Aug. 13, 2006 disappearance. Mark Mesiti told police that Alycia traveled to the San Jose area on August 11, 2006, to spend the weekend with a friend and that she telephoned on August 13, reporting that she had instead gone camping with other friends but would not disclose her location or who she was with. Police say Mesiti claimed to receive periodic calls from Alycia who assured her things were okay.

In October 2008 Ceres Police sergeants contacted the Ceres Courier to have an article published for public help in finding Alycia Mesiti - while Mark Mesiti was claiming knowing nothing about her fate.

Mesiti's criminal record includes domestic violence against Alycia's mother, Roberta Allen, drunken driving and bank fraud. Despite his record, in November 2005 Mark was awarded custody of Alycia. The girl reportedly did not get along with her mother, Roberta Allen, who has a history of mental depression and attempted suicide. Court officials expressed concerns about Alycia's supervision and turned her over to her father.

In 2005 Mesiti moved from the Bay Area to Alexis Avenue, a neighborhood west of Morgan Road and just blocks from Sinclear Elementary. On Sept. 15, 2005 Alycia had been enrolled by her father to attend Central Valley High School but never attended. On Oct. 6, 2005 CUSD received a request for her records to be sent to Harbor High School in Santa Cruz.

Roberta Allen told Ceres police she did not believe her daughter ran away and suspected foul play. That's when Ceres Police stepped up their investigation and brought in a cadaver-detecting canine named "C.J." to sniff out the backyard for human remains. The body was found buried in the dirt a few feet from the edge of the patio.