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Verdict reached in trial of teen accused of killing mom, stepfather

Jurors have reached a verdict in the trial of a 16-year-old girl charged with murdering her mother and stepfather, whose bodies were discovered more than a year ago in separate shallow graves, authorities said.

The Compton jury spent only a few hours deliberating late Thursday and Friday morning before reaching a verdict in the double-murder trial of Cynthia Alvarez.

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Alvarez, who was 15 at the time of the killings but is being tried as an adult, denied carrying out the crimes but admitted writing incriminating notes to her boyfriend and handing him a knife she says he used to stab her stepfather.

She testified that her boyfriend, Giovanni Gallardo, then 16, was responsible for the October 2011 slayings and that she had little control over what happened that night. She told jurors in Compton she feared that her abusive boyfriend might hurt her if she sought help.

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.

Gallardo, now 18, is also charged as an adult and is expected to be tried on murder charges next week.

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Alvarez testified earlier this week 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 until they eventually dumped her at a vacant lot in Norwalk, she said.

Alvarez testified that her mother beat her and that her stepfather raped her and repeatedly molested her for about a decade. She said her boyfriend said he would kill the adults but that she objected.

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She admitted writing several notes to Gallardo on the evening of the killings. One said: “I am to scared. I cannot do it.” Another ungrammatical note read: “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 and did not want the couple dead but hoped he would carry out the killings out of her sight if he was going to do it.

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Her defense attorney told jurors that Alvarez, who was in a special education class, has a language processing disorder. The prosecutor argued that Alvarez had an IQ of 109, on the higher end of average.

[Update, 2:12 p.m.: Jurors are expected to announce their verdict within the next hour.]

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

Twitter: @jackfleonard


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