AUSTIN (KXAN) - Areli Escobar was sentenced to die Friday for the May 2009 rape and stabbing murder of Bianca Maldonado, 17, who was attacked in her home while her mother and sister were away at work.
The girl's 1-year-old son was also injured. Her mother and sister found Bianca's body on the floor after they returned from a paper delivery route, the boy unconscious next to her.
Judge Mike Lynch read that sentence after the jury determined Escobar, 32, would pose a threat to the prison population and there were no mitigating factors to give him life in prison without parole.
After the verdict was read, there were tears and also a few smiles as Bianca Maldonado's family remembered her and also expressed a little remorse for Escobar's family but none for the killer.
"I think she can rest in peace now her murderer is paying what he did for her," said Magaly Maldonado, Bianca's sister.
From Escobar's side came a few cries were heard from the Escobar family. One of them softly said, "I love you Areli," as he was lead out of the courtroom. An ex-girlfriend said in Spanish, "You left my daughter without a father."
During closing arguments earlier in the day, the atmosphere in the courtroom took on an almost sermon-like tone as the jury heard biblical connotations and verses from both sides.
Defense attorney Alan Williams talked about the value of a life and how a death sentence would be turning toward the past while ignoring the future.
Prosecutor Allison Wetzel argued that it has become "almost a cliché" to see people use God, the Bible, and religion to avoid punishment.
"In Travis County, the death penalty is the law. It is reserved for the worst of the worst," said Wetzel.
Both sides also discussed the consequences of the jury's decision with them.
Defense attorney Steve Brittain urged the jury to follow the law and not punish based on the emotions they may feel about an extraordinarily brutal murder.
"If we could do something to Escobar to bring (Bianca Maldonado) back, it would be a no-brainer. "There would be nothing to talk about," said Brittain who tried to remind the jury of Escobar's family and his importance to them.
"There are good selfless deeds that are real and sufficient to warrant condemning him to hell as opposed to killing him."
Prosecutor Efrain De La Fuente asked that the jury remember Escobar's past riddled with gang activity, physical abuse against his wife, and other violence.
"As he was walking to Bianca Maldonado's apartment, was he thinking about his five kids or his sisters who have been loving towards him? Where was that good father?" he said.
If the jury decides Escobar is a threat to commit violence in the prison population and that there are no mitigating factors to warrant a life in prison sentence, they can sentence him to death.
Maldonado attended LBJ High School in Austin. Her body was discovered by her mother and sister in the early morning hours of May 31, 2009.
Escobar will join six other killers from Travis County on Death Row in Huntsville, according to records maintained by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Since Texas resumed executions in 1982, seven inmates from Travis County have been put to dealth.
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