The family of a 4-year-old girl beaten to death by her father’s girlfriend two years ago said they were satisfied with the 99-year prison sentence jurors handed Thursday.
Danielle Trigo and Joe Sanchez, Alyrah’s Sanchez’s aunt and uncle, who spoke to the media on behalf of their family, said they were happy with the conclusion of the trial.
Jurors deliberated for three hours before returning to the 140th District Court with their sentence for 22-year-old Yvonne Gonzales.
“We're just happy justice was served and my niece is going to be able to get the rest that she needs, and I'm sure all the rest of our family is happy that justice was served and it went the way it went,” said Joe Sanchez.
Gonzales pleaded guilty two weeks ago to a felony murder charge in the killing of Alyrah Sanchez, her live-in boyfriend’s daughter. Gonzales opted for a jury to determine her punishment of between five years to life in prison.
Sunshine Stanek, the Lubbock County First Assistant District Attorney, said after the trial that Gonzales’ 99-year prison sentence will keep her behind bars for life.
“We feel confident that this defendant will never ever walk out of the prison system on this sentence,” she said.
Prosecutors put on evidence that painted Gonzales as cold. A video-recorded interview with Lubbock police detectives showed Gonzales speak calmly as she recounted the events of Nov. 18, 2015, when she said she tried to resuscitate the girl, who she said choked on a burrito she ate at dinner.
She denied hitting the girl and said she did not observe the bruises in the girl that EMTs immediately saw when they responded to the emergency call at Gonzales’ father’s home.
She was arrested the next day and jurors were played a jail phone call between Gonzales and her sister in which she said matter of factly, “I’m sorry for what I did, but it is what it is.”
Defense attorney Charles Chambers, put on evidence to show that Gonzales loved Sanchez and doted on her as if she were her own child. About six months before her death, Sanchez was placed by CPS with her father, Gonzales’ live-in boyfriend. Gonzales became the girl’s primary caregiver.
However, he said his client, who was 19 at the time and recently gave birth, was unable to cope with the stresses of parenthood and “snapped.”
Gonzales pleaded guilty to a count of felony murder, a charge that doesn’t accuse her of intentionally killing Sanchez, but of killing her during the commission of felony, such as aggravated assault.
Dr. Sridhar Natarajan, the county medical examiner, told jurors he believe Sanchez was beaten with such force that her liver was ripped nearly in half, her pancreas and right kidney were also injured and she also suffered a brain bleed.
Barron Slack, the person’s crimes chief at the Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office, said the charge Gonzales pleaded to is no different from a regular murder charge.
“It's murder,” he said. “It's a conviction for murder, the same as any other murder would be.”
In his closing argument, he said the injuries the girl suffered were inexcusable and goes beyond “snapping.”
“Lots of people who do not have coping skills do not run this red light to this extent,” he said in the packed courtroom.
Trigo said the three days of testimony during the trial were hard on her family. However, she said, family members pulled together to see that justice was done.
She said the evidence presented at the trial showed her how cruel the world can be.
“This woman came and did this to somebody who you love,” she said. “It just kills this innocence, this light, it takes the light away from your life.”
She said as her family begins to heal, they may not be anywhere close to forgiving Gonzales.
“I'm not saying we're happy that she's gone,” she said. “But we are celebrating because we know the truth. And a person like that doesn't belong out here and it's important that they be in there for that period of time.”
Gonzales will be eligible for parole after 30 years. Her attorney, Charles Chambers, said Gonzales may file an appeal.