SANTA ANA (CBS) — A 36-year-old El Monte man was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder for beating and strangling a prostitute in a Garden Grove hotel room two years ago.
An Orange County jury deliberated several hours before finding Cesar Gomez guilty of the murder count, and also found true a special circumstance allegation of committing the murder during a robbery. Gomez, who is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 2, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Gomez contacted 24-year-old Ashley Lilly, who had posted her profile on an escort website, and arranged to meet her in her room at the Crown Plaza Anaheim Resort on Harbor Boulevard near Disneyland.
Late in the evening of Aug. 20, 2009, or early the next day, Gomez showed up at Lilly’s room, intent on robbing her, Talley said. He did not have sex with the victim, the prosecutor said.
When Lilly put up a fight, Gomez beat her up and choked her to death, then tied her up, thinking she was still alive, as he ransacked the room for any valuables, Talley said.
Deputy Public Defender Scott Sanders argued for a second-degree murder conviction, telling jurors that Gomez meant to have sex with Lilly and that he killed her during a struggle.
The victim’s mother said after the verdicts were read that she finally felt “relaxed.”
“I can start my life back over. It’s been on hold” for two years, Anna Lilly said, adding that she took time off from her job at a hospital, where she cares for the elderly, to attend the trial of her daughter’s killer.
“Now I can go home and sleep,” she said.
Another of her daughters, Neomi, was raped and killed on Oct. 20, 1990, in Omaha, Nebraska, when she was 9 years old. The killer, Asa Carter, was convicted of rape and murder charges, but the family endured three trials, the mother said. Carter’s first conviction was overturned on appeal and his second trial ended in a mistrial.
Ashley Lilly was a student at the Art Institute of California Orange County in Santa Ana from 2004 to 2007 and aspired to be a filmmaker, her mother said.
“She loved school,” Anna Lilly said, adding her daughter was an athlete in high school.
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