A Desert Hot Springs man was sentenced today to 56 years to life in state prison for the stabbing death of his landlord.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dean Benjamini handed down the maximum term for Albert Marchain, 29, who was convicted July 7 of killing 69-year-old Stanislaw Tokarski nearly three years ago.
An Indio jury heard three days of testimony and deliberated 40 minutes before finding Marchain guilty of first-degree murder. The panel also found true a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a weapon -- a knife -- in the commission of a murder.
Tokarski was killed on Nov. 12, 2018, inside his backyard housing unit at 66940 Hacienda Ave. The victim lived in a separated unit at the rear of the property, which he owned, and rented the main house to the defendant's family.
Marchain admitted to killing Tokarski both following his arrest and on the stand during his trial, claiming it was an act of self-defense that occurred after his landlord attacked him. He also admitted to using three weapons -- two knives and a box cutter -- prior to fleeing to the desert. He trekked nearly 10 miles into Cathedral City, where he was arrested the next day.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Miguel Valente said his client entered Tokarski's living quarters hoping to retrieve sensitive personal information containing his Social Security number that he feared Tokarski was going to use to force him into a lease agreement. Valente alleged that following a verbal spat, Tokarski attacked Marchain.
"He yelled at Albert and that scared Albert. Albert turned to leave the residence when he felt something hard hit him on the head, maybe a tool," Valente said. "Albert knew Mr. Tokarski was going to kill him."
In her closing statement, Deputy District Attorney Gypsy Yeager repeatedly pointed out the apparent paradox in the defendant's claim that the killing was committed in self-defense. The prosecutor noted that Tokarski was 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 125 pounds, while the defendant is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and 200 pounds, and substantially younger.
"Mr. Tokarski died powerless, helpless and alone ... and he couldn't do anything about it," Yeager said, alleging that the attack stemmed from "disrespect'' that the victim purportedly showed Marchain.
"It was an ego thing. It was a pride thing. It was a respect thing," she said.
According to Yeager, the victim's injuries included stab wounds to both his back and heart, and a slit throat. The quantity and depth of the wounds showed that the defendant was a "cold-blooded killer" who intended to end Tokarsi's life, Yeager said.
"This is like straight up prison-style. It's brutal," she said.
Video footage of detectives questioning the defendant was shown to the jurors, in which Marchain can be heard admitting to being a regular user of methamphetamine and saying he was high during the interview.
After his arrest, Marchain directed detectives to where he hid one of the knives, which was recovered by police, Desert Hot Springs police Detective Christopher Tooth testified.
When prodded by Yeager, Marchain admitted he didn't call 911 after the attack, and instead fled the scene as the victim bled to death.
Criminal proceedings were previously suspended when the defendant's attorney raised doubt about his client's ability to assist in his own defense. Marchain underwent a mental health evaluation, and a judge found him mentally
competent to stand trial.
Marchain has prior felony convictions in Riverside County for receiving stolen property and battery on a peace officer.