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Teen guilty of murder in slayings of girlfriend's parents

HomicideCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemJustin BieberHalloween

A teenager accused of killing his girlfriend's parents and then driving to stores for party supplies with one of the dead victims in the back of his vehicle was convicted Wednesday of murder.

Giovanni Gallardo, 18, gave sheriff's detectives a detailed confession in which he said he strangled his girlfriend's mother and beat her stepfather with a baseball bat before stabbing him with a knife.

Gallardo's attorney introduced evidence during the trial that his client was mentally retarded with an IQ of 57 and that he may have provided a false confession.

But the Compton jurors deliberated for just over an hour before finding Gallardo guilty of first-degree murder.

Gallardo, who was 16 at the time of the October 2011 killings, was tried as an adult. He faces life in prison.

The victims' bodies were found in shallow graves. Jose Lara, 51, was handcuffed and his body covered with a blanket. Gloria Villalta, 58, was bloated from decomposition and her head was wrapped in duct tape.

Prosecutors alleged that Gallardo and his girlfriend, Cynthia Alvarez, plotted together to kill the couple.

Gallardo told detectives during his interview that he was angry that Alvarez's mother had called police on him and told her daughter to break up with him.

"She wanted to be with me," he told sheriff's detectives during the video recorded interview that was played for the jury. "That's why we did this, 'cause we wanted to be with each other, together."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Eric Siddall told jurors that after the killings, Gallardo and his girlfriend drove around in her mother's Jeep looking for a place to dump the bodies. In Long Beach, they dug a grave for the girls' stepfather but the ground was too hard to make the grave large enough to include Villalta's body, Siddall said.

For the next two days, the young couple kept her body in the back of the Jeep as they shopped for supplies for a Halloween party, Siddall said. Villalta was eventually buried in a vacant lot in Norwalk.

Gallardo's girlfriend, Alvarez, was convicted earlier this month in both murders. 

During her trial, Alvarez, 16, blamed her boyfriend for the crimes. She claimed she did not want her parents dead but did not seek help because she was afraid of her boyfriend, whom she described as abusive.

A jury deliberated for about three hours before convicting her of first-degree murder. 

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

Twitter: @jackfleonard

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