LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A man was sentenced to death Monday for murdering a worker at a Subway sandwich shop in Whittier and a man in a San Gabriel parking lot during robberies about a decade ago.
Leonardo Alberto Cisneros, 30, was ordered to be transferred to San Quentin State Prison sometime within the next 10 days.
“When all appeals have been exhausted…the warden is ordered to put the defendant to death,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen said.
An automatic appeal will be filed in the case.
Cisneros was convicted on May 7 of first-degree murder for the two killings. Diangui Wu, 50, of Rowland Heights, was killed on Aug. 4, 2004, in the 1800 block of South Del Mar Ave. in San Gabriel. On Dec. 10, 2004, 22-year-old Pasadena City College student Joseph Molina was killed during a heist at the Subway store in the 5400 block of Norwalk Boulevard.
Jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during the course of a robbery and multiple murders. They also found Cisneros guilty of 16 counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery. Some of those counts involved armed robberies at other business in the San Gabriel Valley area. On May 23, they recommended the death penalty.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Frank Santoro told the eight-man four-woman panel that Cisneros “does not deserve to walk around a prison or be in prison.”
“He turned into a monster, a ruthless, brutal killer,” the prosecutor said.
Three members of Molina’s family, some wearing T-shirts with his likeness, offered statements to the court Monday. They included a measure of forgiveness for Cisneros.
Calling the defendant “some nervous, misguided thief,” Molina’s uncle Marty Speer said he hoped Cisneros “doesn’t have evil in him” and that the killing was “just a horrible mistake.”
Josephina Molina, the victim’s mother, said she wanted Cisneros to repent. Otherwise, Molina said, the defendant would suffer “eternal damnation in hell.”
Molina said she had come to a difficult personal decision. “I have decided today to extend my forgiveness to you, Mr. Cisneros,” she said.
Cisneros scribbled notes throughout the family’s comments, not turning to look at them.
Following the sentencing, Santoro was less forgiving, saying that the shootings were gratuitous. Cisneros could have walked away with the money, leaving his victims unharmed, the deputy district attorney said.
“He did it because, basically, he was an evil man,” Santoro said.
One of Cisneros’ attorneys, Nancy Sperber, had implored jurors to spare her client a death sentence. She told jurors that life without the possibility of parole, the other sentence jurors could have recommended, was “not something to treat lightly.”
“It is serious,” she said. “It’s not a sentence to a country club.”
Santoro said the punishment was justified.
“It’s an appropriate sentence in this case,” Santoro said. “It took a long time, but justice was finally served.”
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