EL CAJON (CNS) - A man who gunned down a woman in her Santee home two years ago during a robbery in which he stole her drugs was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jose Luis Nunez Torres, 23, was convicted in September of first-degree murder and special circumstance allegations of murder during a burglary, robbery and lying in wait in the death of 34-year-old Leticia Arroyo.
Deputy District Attorney James Koerber said Torres got an acquaintance, Jaen Avila, to drive him to Arroyo's home on Oct. 4, 2016. Torres -- who had bought drugs from the victim before -- had a secret plan to ambush her and steal methamphetamine, the prosecutor said.
Torres shot Arroyo in the head, then stole one or more bags of meth before fleeing, Koerber told the jury.
Before sentencing, Arroyo's mother, Roseanna Reyes, told Judge Evan Kirvin that she taught her daughter how to pray when she was 7 years old.
"Leticia was giving and thoughtful," Reyes told the judge.
The mother told Torres he deserved the death penalty for killing her first-born child.
"You hurt me to the core of my soul," Reyes told the defendant.
The victim's sister, Priscilla Chavez, said Arroyo's life went downhill when she was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
"You murdered someone who already felt dead inside," Chavez told Torres.
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Koerber asked the judge to sentence Torres to the maximum term under the law for his "callous" crimes.
"He killed a woman," the prosecutor said. "He shot a woman in the head. She would have given him the shirt off her back, She would have given him the drugs."
Eight days after killing Arroyo, Torres put the same gun to the head of a man in La Jolla during another home-invasion robbery, Koerber said. Torres was convicted of that robbery and another in which nothing was stolen.
The judge refused to "strike" a gun allegation against Torres, sentencing the defendant to a pair of life terms plus another 24 years and eight months in prison.
"These were the actions of a cold-blooded, remorseless man," Kirvin said.
During trial, defense attorney Michael Hawkins said it was Avila who shot Arroyo, but Avila's attorney said her client was so scared after the murder he didn't talk about it. Avila eventually pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact for being the getaway driver. He faces up to three years in prison.
Before sentencing, Hawkins told the judge that Torres' life took a downward turn when his mother died and he started using drugs, specifically methamphetamine.
Hawkins said Torres is remorseful and "is aware of the huge mistake he has made in his life."