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Man Pleads Guilty to Fatal Stabbing of Pasadena Woman in Westminster

Published on Saturday, March 9, 2024 | 5:35 am

A 29-year-old man pleaded guilty Friday to fatally stabbing a Pasadena woman in a Westminster hotel six years ago.

Aryan Vito Smith made an open plea of murder with a sentencing enhancement for using a deadly weapon on Friday. A hearing is scheduled for May 10 for the judge to consider evidence from prosecutors and the defendant’s attorney to decide whether it is first-degree or second-degree murder.

22-year-old Pasadena resident Treeanna Nichols was found dead in a room at the Quality Inn at 6601 Westminster Blvd., Westminster after her family called police for a welfare check on February 5, 2018.

Nichols had been staying alone in the motel for a short period and had friends and acquaintances in the area. 

She had been stabbed multiple times, Westminster police Cmdr. Cameron Knauerhaze said when the defendant was arrested. 

Investigators believed the assailant was injured during the attack, the commander said.

Surveillance footage released by the police showed a suspect, later identified as Aryan Vito Smith, walking up the stairs of the motel around 3 p.m. on the day Nichols was found and leaving a short time later. The police believed this was when Nichols was killed, according to various media reports.

Smith, who lived in Westminster, was arrested in May 2020, charged with Nichols’ murder, and held on $1 million bail. The arrest was made possible through sophisticated DNA sleuthing by Parabon NanoLabs, reportedly marking the first time the Westminster Police Department used such technology. 

Despite initial challenges in finding a DNA match, a breakthrough came in April 2020 when a distant relative of Smith uploaded DNA to a database, leading to a match.

Smith pleaded guilty to the murder on March 8, 2024, and a hearing is scheduled for May 10 to decide whether it will be considered first-degree or second-degree murder.

A first-degree murder conviction would lead to a 26 years to life sentence. A second-degree murder conviction would mean 10 years less time before getting a parole hearing.

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