A 16-year-old girl charged with murdering her mother and stepfather tearfully told a Compton jury on Monday that she did not take part in the killings and blamed her boyfriend for the crimes.
Cynthia Alvarez testified that she was outside her family's Compton mobile home when she heard her mother shout her name and later heard her boyfriend, Giovanni Gallardo, call for her. When she went back inside the home, she found her mother dead, she testified.
Alvarez, who was 15 at the time of the killings but is being tried as an adult, said her boyfriend told her to remove her dead mother's bracelet, which she threw on a nearby bed.
Her stepfather arrived at the Atlantic Avenue trailer later, and Alvarez said she saw her boyfriend wait for him behind the trailer's front door, armed with a baseball bat.
"Giovanni hit him with the bat twice … in the head," Alvarez testified. "I just saw black stuff coming out from his head -- it was dark."
She said Gallardo told her that he needed help. Alvarez said she got the bat and struck her stepfather twice in the lower part of his body, fearing that her boyfriend -- who was sometimes abusive -- would hurt her too if she refused to assist.
"I was shaking so I didn't hit him hard," she told the jury.
The bodies of Gloria Villalta, 58, and Jose Lara, 51, were discovered in October 2011 buried in separate, shallow graves. Alvarez testified that her mother beat her and that her stepfather raped her and repeatedly molested her for about a decade.
Alvarez said her boyfriend broached the idea of killing the adults three times before the night of the killings but that she objected each time.
She admitted writing several notes to Gallardo on the evening of the killings. One said: "I am to scared. I cannot do it." Another: "What about if she going to her bed. Can you kill her." A third said, "you do it."
Alvarez testified that she intended the notes to tell Gallardo that she did not want to be involved in what he might be planning to do. She said she was not encouraging him to kill the adults and did not want them killed.
Her defense attorney has told jurors that Alvarez, who was in a special education class, has a language processing disorder.
Alvarez testified that she did not contact neighbors, police or anyone else for help after the slayings because she felt paralyzed. She said she did not believe anyone would have helped her because no one had intervened in the past when she told authorities and relatives about her mother and stepfather's abuse.
"My mind was blank," Alvarez testified. "My body wasn't moving, but my spirit was. I just felt numbed, shaking, just panicking."
Gallardo, she said, loaded the dead bodies into her mother's Jeep Cherokee and the teens drove out to a vacant lot, where they dumped Lara. Alvarez said her boyfriend used a shovel to dig a grave and told her to cover the body with dirt.
They returned to the home and she helped clean the scene, using napkins and a mop. She threw out some items into the mobile home's trash because they were covered in blood. Later, the teens dumped her mother's body.
Gallardo, who was 16 at the time of the killings, is also charged as an adult. He and Alvarez face life prison sentences if convicted of murder. Gallardo, now 17, is expected to go to trial in the next few weeks.