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Jury Has Case of Daughter Killing Mom & Stepdad

Prosecutor: crimes were planned and executed by her at age 15, allegedly with help by her teen boyfriend, who awaits trial. Defense: she was abused but didn't kill. One of bodies buried in Long Beach.

Updated story after closing arguments and defense presented.

A teenage girl was involved in planning the killings of her mother and stepfather in the family's Compton mobile home, one of the victims later buried in Long Beach, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday, but the girl's attorney said the teen is not guilty of the charges.

In closing arguments that wrapped up Thursday afternoon, Deputy District Attorney Kristin Trutanich told the Compton Superior Court jury that the evidence against Cynthia Alvarez was ``overwhelming.''

``Cynthia Alvarez, at 15 and a half years old, had a boyfriend for over a year named Giovanni Gallardo, and the two of them planned, executed the murders of her parents on October 11th, 2011,'' the prosecutor told jurors hearing the case against Alvarez, who will turn 17 next month.

Gallardo -- who was 16 at the time and is now 18 -- is awaiting a separate trial Monday in connection with the killings of Alvarez's mother, Gloria Villalta, 58, and her stepfather, Jose Lara, 51. Alvarez's attorney, Carole Telfer, maintained that her client was not guilty of the charges and accused the prosecution of ``trying Gallardo's case.''

She questioned whether the teen ``could plan a murder this brutal,'' later telling jurors, ``She did not commit two brutal murders.'' The defense lawyer described the teenage girl as having been ``consistently abused in her life,'' but still loved her mother though she had been hit with belts. Alvarez's attorney told the panel that her client was forced by her mother to lie when the Department of Children and Family Services investigated a report that her stepfather had sexually assaulted her.

``Her life has been lived in a nightmare and she's handled it pretty well,'' Alvarez's attorney told jurors, saying that her client -- who has a language processing disorder -- needs to be ``saved.'' The prosecutor countered that the teenage girl's conduct at the time of the killings showed that her mental state was ``to get rid of her parents.''

``It's absolutely disturbing what she did to her parents, the way she let them die and then rot -- one in the car, one in the ground,'' Trutanich told jurors. Villalta's decomposed body was discovered in a shallow grave at a vacant lot in Norwalk, while Lara's body was found at a vacant lot in Long Beach.

Alvarez testified in her own defense during the case, insisting she did not take part in the killings that she said were carried out by Gallardo. She admitted hitting her stepfather with the bat, but said it was only because she feared Gallardo would hurt her if she didn't comply with his orders.

The teenager acknowledged that she and Gallardo were shopping for party supplies while her mother's body was in the back of the vehicle they were using. Alvarez's role was as an ``aider and abettor, at least to her mother's murder,'' prosecutor Trutanich said, telling jurors Alvarez wrote ``chilling'' notes in a spiral notebook to her boyfriend -- including one about killing her mother in bed -- while the unsuspecting woman prepared chicken soup in the kitchen.

``You can't just say, `I wrote the notes and then I left,''' the prosecutor said. ``She did nothing to prevent that crime.'' After Alvarez's mother was strangled and her body was dragged into a storage room, Alvarez did nothing to stop her boyfriend as he prepared to swing at her stepfather with a baseball bat as he walked into an ``ambush'' in the mobile home, Trutanich said. During the ensuing attack, Alvarez hit her stepfather with the bat and handed Gallardo a knife ``to let Giovanni finish him off'' by stabbing him 11 times, according to the prosecutor.

The murder charges include the special-circumstance allegations of lying in wait and multiple murders. Alvarez and Gallardo both face life prison sentences if convicted. They cannot face the death penalty because of their age at the time of the killings. Jurors began deliberating this afternoon and were set to resume their deliberations Friday morning.

Earlier story 

A prosecutor urged jurors Thursday to convict a 16-year-old girl of first-degree murder for the slayings of her mother and stepfather in the family's home, after which they were buried in Norwalk and Long Beach.

Defense attorney Carole Telfer was scheduled to give her closing argument this afternoon. Alvarez testified in her own defense during the case, insisting she did not take part in the killings that she said were carried out by Gallardo. She admitted hitting her stepfather with the bat, but only because she feared Gallardo would hurt her if she didn't comply with his orders.

Alvarez testified that her mother beat her and her stepfather molested her for about a decade. She also testified that she and Gallardo went shopping for party supplies and food while her mother's body was in the back of the vehicle they were using.

The prosecution presented its case Thursday.

``Cynthia Alvarez, at 15 and a half years old, had a boyfriend for over a year named Giovanni Gallardo, and the two of them planned, executed the murders of her parents on October 11th, 2011,'' Deputy District Attorney Kristin Trutanich told the Compton Superior Court panel hearing the case against Alvarez, who will turn 17 next month.

Gallardo -- who was 16 at the time and is now 18 -- is awaiting a separate trial as early as Friday in connection with the killings of Alvarez's mother, Gloria Villalta, 58, and her stepfather, Jose Lara, 51. They were killed in the family's Compton mobile home. Afterward, shse testified earlier, the couple drove to buy party supplies with her mother's body in the vehicle.

``Neither one of her parents knew the horrible fate that was coming to them on October 11th,'' the prosecutor said during her closing argument. Alvarez's role was as an ``aider and abettor, at least to her mother's murder,'' Trutanich said, telling jurors Alvarez wrote a ``chilling'' notes in a spiral notebook to her boyfriend - including one about killing her mother in bed -while the unsuspecting woman prepared chicken noodle soup in the kitchen.

``You can't just say, `I wrote the notes and then I left,''' the prosecutor said. ``She did nothing to prevent that crime.'' After the body of Alvarez's mother was dragged into a storage room, Alvarez did nothing to stop her boyfriend as he prepared to swing at her stepfather with a baseball bat as he walked into an ``ambush'' in the Compton mobile home, Trutanich said.

During the ensuing attack, Alvarez hit her stepfather with the bat and handed Gallardo a knife ``to let Giovanni finish him off'' by stabbing him 11 times. ``The evidence in this case is overwhelming,'' the prosecutor said. The murder charges include the special-circumstance allegations of lying in wait and multiple murders.

Alvarez and Gallardo both face life prison sentences if convicted. They cannot face the death penalty because of their age at the time of the killings. Villalta's decomposed body was discovered in a shallow grave at a vacant lot in Norwalk, while Lara's body was found at a vacant lot in Long Beach.

Defense attorney Carole Telfer was scheduled to give her closing argument this afternoon. Alvarez testified in her own defense during the case, insisting she did not take part in the killings that she said were carried out by Gallardo. She admitted hitting her stepfather with the bat, but only because she feared Gallardo would hurt her if she didn't comply with his orders.

Alvarez testified that her mother beat her and her stepfather molested her for about a decade. She also testified that she and Gallardo went shopping for party supplies and food while her mother's body was in the back of the vehicle they were using.

Lisa Metzger May 09, 2013 at 09:30 PM
One sentence that this girl may have been molested and beaten for over a decade and the rest about the crime itself from the prosecutors point of view. I think this article is extremely one sided and part of the problem as to why people put on trial such as this are guilty until proven innocent.
Nancy Wride (Editor) May 09, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Hi Lisa, fair point. I did not write the story but just moved up the defense and earlier testimony by the defendant to the 2nd paragraph. We will post the defense story as well and link them together.
Charles Beckman May 10, 2013 at 12:55 AM
So, she admitted to hitting her step-father with a bat AND buying party supplies with her Mother's dead body in the car? Can't wait to hear the "defense" argument on this one.
Anna E Wooten May 10, 2013 at 09:52 PM
Fear as an abused person freezes you from thinking logically. The man behind this is real killer here, not her. I hope you can walk in someones shoes who has been abused and find out what a 15 year old is capable of doing when fear is all she can think of.

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