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Killer Sentenced to 5 Life Terms

Monica Diaz helped her boyfriend murder four relatives. A surviving aunt recounts attack.

April 22, 2004|Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writer

Monica Diaz, who with her teenage lover fatally stabbed four members of her own family, was sentenced Wednesday to five life terms in prison.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio said he could not find words to describe the viciousness of the murders.

" 'Cold-hearted' isn't adequate. 'Immoral' isn't adequate," Torribio said of the killings, which occurred in Pico Rivera on July 21, 2000, as the victims slept. "There's just no way to explain this extraordinarily violent crime."

Diaz, 20, looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as members of her family spoke about their loss. The victims were Diaz's uncle Richard Flores, 42; and cousins Richard Jr., 17; Sylvia, 13; and Matthew, 10.

Diaz's aunt, Sylvia Flores, the wife and mother of the victims, recounted how she was also stabbed in the throat and face, but survived.

Defense attorney Louis Sepe asked for leniency, saying that Diaz was only 16 at the time of the murders and arguing that she tried to administer aid to a bleeding Flores.

But Flores told the judge that Diaz was not trying to help her stop the bleeding, but was actually trying to complete the murder.

"The day you came to the hospital ... you knew by our eye contact

Diaz's boyfriend, Michael Naranjo, 20, pleaded guilty to the murders and is serving five life sentences without the possibility of parole.

He testified that he went from room to room and slashed the throats of the victims. Naranjo told jurors that Diaz, who feared her aunt and uncle were going to get a divorce, had only agreed to help him stage a burglary to frighten the family into staying together.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Kevin McCormick contended that Diaz and Naranjo were sociopaths bent on committing mass murder together.

On Wednesday, Flores told the judge that she and her late husband raised Diaz and her half sister, Laura Reta, as their own after the girls' mother died when they were young.

Diaz called the Flores couple "Mom and Dad" and her cousins "brothers and sisters."

Flores was joined in the courtroom by her remaining daughter, Esperanza, 22, who was present but was not attacked on the night of the murders.

"I wish you knew how hard it is to live without your brothers and sister in that big old house," Flores said. "On that day, I lost four children and your dad. You died with them and I only say that because I can't hold you."

Flores also told Diaz that she missed camping, jet skiing and watching her children compete in sports. And now when she goes to church, a sobbing Flores said, "I sit there all by myself. To pray to what?"

Flores' daughter Esperanza said: "You have no idea how hard it is to wake up every day.... Mom's right, the sister that I loved died July 21, 2000."

McCormick asked for the maximum sentence, citing that "three of her victims were also minors."

Raul Colorado, another uncle, addressed Diaz in court:

"Turn around and look at me at least. Shed a tear. Say 'I'm sorry.' "

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