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Dominic Aguirre Sentencing, 2.13

Dominic Aguirre (right) briefly turns toward the family of Phillip Madlock, the man beaten to death over a drug debt, as attorney Robert Kortus of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy looks on Wednesday in court. 

A 37-year-old man got 60 to 80 years in prison Wednesday -- the same sentence his co-defendant got in the fall -- in connection with the beating death of Phillip Madlock over a drug debt.

Dominic "Dom" Aguirre first made a plea to Madlock's family, in the courtroom, seeming to nearly choke up at times.

"I sympathize with the family," he said. "I can't imagine what they're going through. I understand my actions completely have devastated them. They've lost somebody. A brother, an uncle, a father."

Aguirre said he's come to terms with that in jail, but before that, he was burying himself with a needle over the guilt.

"I didn't put a stop to stuff," he said. "I never had intention to take that man's life."

But, to the prosecutor, it was just Aguirre minimizing what he'd done.

"What is quite clear is that Mr. (Paul) Clark and Mr. Aguirre are two men who are desperately pointing their finger at each other in an attempt to avoid punishment," Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Jan Lipovsky said.

At Clark's sentencing, the 36-year-old asked for probation and put the blame on Aguirre before Lancaster County District Judge Kevin McManaman gave him 60 to 80 years.

Both men originally faced second-degree murder charges.

But, in deals with the state, Clark pleaded no contest to first-degree assault and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. Aguirre pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and attempted kidnapping.

Madlock originally was reported missing. Then in December 2017, a relative told police Aguirre and Clark had been looking for Madlock before he disappeared, even going so far as to offer a reward to anyone who knew where he was.

Police arrested Aguirre and Clark in January 2018 after learning they had found Madlock at a friend’s house in Lincoln on June 28, 2017, and severely assaulted him.

He died when they were moving him.

Attorney Robert Kortus, of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, argued that Aguirre deserved less time than Clark because they had different motivations.

For Aguirre, it began as a fistfight, a sudden quarrel, Kortus said.

"He reacted and he reacted poorly. Very, very poorly," he said of Aguirre.

But, Kortus said, Clark had been the one calling the shots.

In October, Lipovsky said that if it wasn't for Clark’s business trafficking marijuana from his farm in California, "we would not be here."

Clark was using Aguirre to sell marijuana in Nebraska. After Madlock ripped off Aguirre, not paying him for drugs he had fronted him, Clark wanted the money back, she said.

On Wednesday, when Aguirre's attorney argued that Clark was the one calling the shots, the same prosecutor said that if there was someone motivated to go after Madlock, it was Aguirre, who'd been ripped off.

She called Madlock's death senseless, over a few pounds of marijuana worth $6,000 or so.

Lipovsky said Aguirre and Clark drove into the country to get rid of Madlock's body after he died, chopped his body up so they could burn it, then bleached their hands to get rid of any blood.

"At this point, we still don't know whatever remains were left -- bones, ashes -- where they are. They cannot be found. The police have tried and tried and tried," she said.

Aguirre asked the court to show him mercy. But, Lipovsky asked, what mercy did he show Madlock?

At the end, McManaman said what this crime boiled down to was money and loss of product in a drug operation.

"Anger and violence, that's what resulted," he said, before giving his sentence, which means Aguirre will have to serve 30 years before he's eligible for parole.

Outside the courtroom, Madlock's family hugged.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

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