As the family of the convicted murderer sat tensely in the courtroom alongside relatives of the slain, a Bucks County judge addressed the jury Thursday, making the day's business clear.
“There are two choices before you,” said Judge Alan M. Rubenstein. “Life imprisonment. Or death.”
Eleven hours later, the jury sentenced convicted first-degree murderer Alfonzo Sanchez, 26, to death for shooting and killing Lisa Diaz, 27, at a Warminster apartment last October.
That night in the Bucks Landing apartment, Sanchez also murdered Mendez Thomas, 22, shooting him in the head at point-blank range.
For that act, the jury sentenced him to life in prison. But the ultimate penalty imposed for the slaying of Diaz takes precedence, and Sanchez will soon be moving into a cell on death row.
Pointing to the facts that came to light in a six-day trial, Rubenstein told the jury candidly, “No one can have a quarrel with your verdict.”
Prosecutor Gary Gambardella praised the jurors for having the “courage” to sentence Sanchez to death. “Clearly this case cried out for that verdict,” Gambardella said. “This man tore apart many lives.”
Mendez Thomas's family, including his sister and mother, clung to each other after the verdict was read. “Justice was served,” said Deborah Thomas, Mendez's mother.
Tears were evident among Sanchez's supporters. Four people testified on his behalf Thursday. They included a day care owner whose daughter had dated Sanchez for years.
A woman whose son was best friends with Sanchez while growing up flew from Arizona overnight to testify for him. Both she and her daughter characterized Sanchez as a caring, respectful, non-violent person. “He's a teddy bear,” said Jennifer Gitlin.
Jack McMahon, Sanchez's lawyer, argued he did not deserve death because he does not have a violent criminal history and was drunk and high when the slayings occurred, rendering him incapable of realizing the ramifications of his actions.
The jury didn't agree.
A death sentence was warranted in the murder of Diaz because he killed her just after murdering Thomas in the presence of Thomas' two young children while committing a burglary, the jury ruled.
Diaz was at Thomas' apartment baby-sitting the night of the murders. Thomas' girlfriend, Jessica Carmona, was shot in the leg as she tried to shield her 2-year-old son.
Sanchez and Steven Miranda, 20, and another man, Alexander Martinez, 23, of Warminster, went to the apartment that night on the pretext of buying drugs.
Miranda faces the prospect of life in prison for his actions that night. Martinez pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and testified against the others.
Another scumbag bites the dust.