It was an emotional day at an El Cajon courthouse as Fil-Am navy veteran Jay Barcelon was sentenced to 16 years of prison for the second degree murder of his wife, Zambales-born Rhona Fantone.
Last month, on the eve of his jury trial, the 32 -year-old pleaded guilty to stabbing the 30-year-old during a domestic dispute.
Family members shared their victim impact statements, talking about the hardship that Fantone's two young children from a previous marriage have been facing.
"We'll never be able to accept that she’s not with us anymore. Jay Barcelon, you’re supposed to protect your wife Rhona and not take her life," Fantone's sister Rhoda Delacruz stressed. "Every time it crosses my mind, I wonder how could you live every single day knowing that your hands have my sister's blood. Jay Barcelon, I want you to know you take every opportunity for Rhona to be with her kids and also you took away every opportunity for the kids to be with their mom. You did not let Rhona witness her kids' milestones."
Barcelon, wearing a jumpsuit and mask, stared down through the whole hearing, only having his lawyer read a prepared apology statement.
"I'm extremely sorry for the tragedy that has befallen you. I bear nothing but only love and compassion and my most heartfelt apology for your loss. My prayers are always with you all and my beloved," his lawyer read.
Friends and family weren't completely satisfied with Barcelon receiving the minimum sentence for the murder of the aspiring nurse who helped patients through the Covid-19 pandemic.
"After seeing him, after maybe a year and a half, we're really not happy with him getting 16 years [because] he took someone’s life and I feel like he needs to be in prison for life. Nobody deserves to die," Delacruz noted.
"We're trying to get by every day. It's painful. It's hard to accept what happened but we have our friends and family and we are very glad they are always here to support us. They never left us, they are the reasons we are still here and going strong."
While the speedy criminal case did not bring as much closure as the the Fantone family had hoped for, they believe the upcoming civil case could bring more details on what happened the night of the murder.
Fantone was reportedly planning to stay with her sister and was picking up clothes from her home when Barcelon stabbed her to death in 2021. Prior to the incident, the two had been having marital issues.
Delacruz said, "since he pleaded guilty, the case didn’t go to trial so we didn’t get to see more information that they have because he pleaded guilty so the case is closed. We have more questions in our mind and I hope we get more from the civil case that we have because there’s really a lot of questions left blank."
The investigations for the civil case are expected to begin soon but as that takes place, friends and family hope that Fantone's story could live on and serve as a reminder for those facing domestic violence issues to seek help before it's too late.