COMPTON (CBSLA.com) — Jury deliberations began Thursday in the trial of a Compton teenager accused along with her teenage boyfriend of murdering her mother and stepfather in October 2011.
Cynthia Alvarez was 15 when she was charged with two counts of murder. She and her boyfriend at the time, Giovanni Gallardo, then 16, are accused of killing Alvarez’s mother, 58-year-old Gloria Villalta, and her 51-year-old stepfather, Jose Lara, in the family’s Compton home.
Deputy District Attorney Kristin Trutanich called the evidence against Alvarez “overwhelming.”
Defense attorney Carole Telfer told jurors that Alvarez needed to be “saved” and said she could not plan or commit such a brutal murder. The defense accused the prosecution of “trying Gallardo’s case” in court.
The two teens allegedly killed Villalta first, strangling her when she arrived home from work and dragging her body into a storage room, according to the prosecution. The two then allegedly waited for Lara to come home.
According to prosecutors, Lara was beaten with a baseball bat by Alvarez and stabbed 11 times by Gallardo.
The teens then allegedly loaded the bodies into a car and dumped them in separate areas.
Defense attorney Telfer told the court that Alvarez had suffered a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her mother, whom she said beat her daughter with a belt and forced her to lie to the Department of Children and Family Services during their investigation of a report that her stepfather, Lara, had sexually assaulted her.
Despite the abuse, Telfer argued, Alvarez still loved her mother.
Alvarez, who suffers from a language processing disorder, took the stand in her own defense. She testified that the murders were committed by Gallardo.
Alvarez admitted to striking her stepfather with a baseball bat but said it was done out of fear that her boyfriend would hurt her if she did not obey his orders.
The teenager acknowledged on the stand that she and Gallardo went shopping for party supplies after the murder, with her mother’s body in the trunk of the car.
“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.
The two bodies were later found in separate graves in Norwalk and Long Beach.
The murder charges against Alvarez include the special-circumstance allegations of lying in wait and multiple murders. She faces life in prison if convicted, but cannot face the death penalty because of her age at the time of the alleged murders.
Both suspects were charged as adults. Gallardo is still awaiting trial.
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