A teenage girl plotted the murder of her parents and helped her boyfriend execute the killings, giving him a hand signal when her mother was heading to bed and helping him ambush her stepfather with a baseball bat, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Kristin Trutanich urged the Compton jury not to feel sympathy for the girl, who testified that she suffered years of abuse at the hands of the victims and watched helplessly as a controlling boyfriend carried out the October 2011 killings in the family’s mobile home.
Trutanich said Cynthia Alvarez was far from a meek, submissive teenager, and the prosecutor reminded the panel that the teen admitted stealing thousands of dollars worth of cash and jewelry from her mother before the slayings.
“She’s a thief who runs away and wants to be with her boyfriend, and her parents were getting in the way,” Trutanich said during closing arguments in the trial. “It’s absolutely offensive -- her conduct and the defense in this case.”
Alvarez was 15 at the time of the killings but is being tried as an adult.
During an emotional finale to the two-week trial, Cynthia Alvarez’s attorney countered by accusing the prosecutor of falsely portraying her client as a “sociopathic, sophisticated, lying” teenager.
Witnesses during the trial described Alvarez as a quiet, sweet girl who loved her mother, Deputy Public Defender Carole Telfer said. Alvarez, she said, was sodomized by her stepfather, who molested her for about a decade. The girl’s mother, the lawyer said, frequently beat her daughter with a belt.
“She is just as much a victim of this case as anybody else,” Telfer told jurors.
After delivering her closing argument, once jurors had left, Telfer wept in the courtroom. Later, as Trutanich delivered a final rebuttal for the jury, the defense attorney wrapped her arm around her client's shoulders, holding her close.
Earlier this week, Alvarez testified that Giovanni Gallardo, then 16, was responsible for the slayings and that she had little control over what happened. She told jurors that Gallardo had previously threatened her with a knife and a gun and that she feared he might hurt her if she sought help during the killings.
Alvarez testified that she and Gallardo buried the body of her stepfather, Jose Lara, 51, on the night of the killings. The body of her mother, Gloria Villalta, 58, would not fit in the same small grave so the teens kept it in the back of the Jeep for several days.
Alvarez testified that after the killings, she and Gallardo drove her mother's Jeep Cherokee to stores to buy supplies for a Halloween party while her mother's decomposing body was in the back of the vehicle.
The victims' bodies were found buried in separate shallow graves. Lara was handcuffed and his body covered with a blanket. Villalta’s head was wrapped in duct tape and her body was bloated from decomposition. Her pedicured toes were sticking out from the ground, Trutanich told jurors.
“That’s how the defendant laid her mother to rest,” the prosecutor said.
Gallardo, now 18, is also charged as an adult and is scheduled to face trial next week.