Man Sentenced to Life for Killing Fallon Girl

A man who pleaded to the beating death of a 2-year-old Fallon girl has been sentenced to life in prison with possible parole.

Jose Valencia Jr., 29, must serve at least 10 years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole under the sentence imposed Tuesday by District Judge David Huff.

Valencia initially was charged with first-degree murder, but entered an Alford plea last week to the lesser offense of second-degree murder under an agreement reached just before he trial was to begin in Fallon.

Under the plea, Valencia maintained his innocence but agreed that prosecutors had enough evidence for a probable conviction.

Valencia was charged in the August 2005 beating death of Nikaliah Knoch, who suffered more than 30 injuries. He was the boyfriend of Nikaliah's mother.

The victim's older brother and sister told investigators that Valencia beat the girl with a clothes hanger and his fist when she soiled her diaper and a bed.

Defense attorney Paul Yohey said Valencia maintains his innocence in the murder and only pleaded guilty because charges of being a habitual criminal were pending. He faced an almost certain life sentence on that charge, Yohey said.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dismissed drug, child abuse and stolen property charges, along with the habitual criminal offense.

During the sentencing hearing, Yohey said the victim was hurt over a period of time and that her mother and uncle, who lived with the family, should be also held accountable for the abuse.

"The just resolution would be if all three of these people were looking at felony child abuse," Yohey said

"He does want the world to know he maintains his innocence. He wants the world to know he regrets the loss of this young child."

Deputy District Attorney Lane Mills said Valencia took the family's only car and fled to Reno after Nikaliah became unresponsive the day she was hurt.

"When this defendant fled the scene he took their only vehicle," Mills said. "He took the only means by which this child could go to the hospital.

"This is a man who did a horrific thing to a 2-year-old child and left her for dead."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)