RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia teenager accused of bludgeoning his neighbor with a claw hammer and then scrawling gang graffiti in the victim’s home has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Rafael Angel Vargas was sentenced in a Chesterfield County court for what the judge called a crime of extreme brutality, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Vargas was accused of killing 87-year-old Bryan H. Walker, considered one of Chesterfield County’s leading advocates for historic preservation.

The judge said Tuesday that Vargas consciously sought out “a protector of the neighborhood and the community” before bludgeoning him four times with the hammer inside his home on April 2, 2019. Vargas, now 18, was 16 at the time.

Prosecutors said after the killing, Vargas returned to Walker’s home to make it appear he was killed during a robbery by an MS-13 gang member.

Vargas pleaded guilty to the murder in January. A related robbery charge was dropped as part of a plea agreement.

After rejecting a defense plea to commit Vargas for mental health treatment, the judge sentenced Vargas to 60 years in prison with 25 years suspended on his conviction of first-degree murder. He will serve all 35 years of active time as an adult.

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