Family members of the 11 people killed in the 2005 Metrolink train derailment no longer need to wonder what will happen to the man who caused it.
Juan Manuel Alvarez was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for parking his sport utility vehicle on the tracks and causing the worst wreck in Metrolink history.
Many people, including the prosecution, thought Alvarez should be put to death, but the real comfort for victims' families and the community is that it's over.
Todd McKeoun, whose brother, Scott McKeoun, died on Metrolink train No. 100, has followed the long case since the beginning.
â€œI respect the decision they [the jurors] made,â€ Todd McKeoun said. â€œIt brought closure to a painful time in my life and in my family's life.â€
Ty Romero, 54, sat in the front row of the courtroom as Alvarez's sentence was read. His uncle, Leonard Romero, was headed to work on the morning of the derailment with one train stop left on his route before he died in the derailment.
â€œI am conflicted,â€ Ty Romero said. â€œI am relieved he is never going to breathe fresh air again, but it's never going to bring my uncle back.â€
Another nephew of Leonard Romero, Alberto Romero, called for a life sentence after Alvarez was found guilty on June 26 of 11 counts of murder and one count of arson.
â€œI'm very angry with [Alvarez], but I don't think he should get the death penalty,â€ Alberto Romero said. â€œWe're nobody to decide who lives and who dies. He should think about this each and every day of his life. God may forgive him, but I don't.â€
The most important measure of a case like this is how the victims' families seem to feel. From their comments after Alvarez was found guilty and again when he was sentenced, the guilty verdict seemed to bring relief that justice was served, while the sentencing brought relief that that their more than three-year wait was over.
No one but Alvarez knows for sure whether his actions on Jan. 26, 2005, represented a botched suicide attempt or a calculated move to kill and hurt people, but as Glendale police Chief Randy Adams said, â€œthe jury has spoken.â€
There are no winners here, including Alvarez, who may have smiled when hearing that he wouldn't be put to death, but the 29-year-old will never again be free.
We hope the families of Manuel Alcala, Julia Bennett, Alfonso Caballero, Elizabeth Hill, Henry Kilinski, Scott McKeoun, Thomas Ormiston, William Parent, Leonard Romero, James Tutino and Don Wiley are finding some peace in that.