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Man gets life for fatally stabbing woman in her home

Cheree Osmanhodzic was looking forward to her wedding when the burglar stabbed her 20 times, then apparently set a fire to try to cover up his crime. The sentence is part of a plea deal.

June 15, 2011|By Jack Leonard, Los Angeles Times
  • Alisha Espinoza, left, a friend of murder victim Cheree Osmanhodzic, is comforted by Cheree's mother, Gail Cameron, as she reads a statement in court in Van Nuys.
Alisha Espinoza, left, a friend of murder victim Cheree Osmanhodzic, is… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Cheree Osmanhodzic's wedding website lives on.

Engagement photos show her lovingly embracing fiance Adam Culvey. Their proposal story recounts how he knelt on one knee to present a ring after a hike overlooking the Ojai Valley. And the couple wrote excitedly of plans to honeymoon in the Caribbean.

Tuesday should have marked their 263rd day as newlyweds, according to the website, which continues to count each day since their planned Sept. 24 wedding.

Instead, Culvey watched his fiancee's killer plead guilty to fatally stabbing Osmanhodzic last year during a burglary at their Valley Village home, just two months before the couple were to exchange vows.

Osmanhodzic, 34, had returned home July 24 after shopping with her mother for her wedding when she was attacked by Omar Armando Loera, who had been released from prison five months earlier following a weapons conviction. She was stabbed 20 times before Loera allegedly set fire to the house to cover up the killing.

The victim's mother, Gail Cameron, told a packed courtroom how her daughter's last words to her after their shopping trip were, "Mom, I love you, and I'll see you next Sunday."

"There are no more phone calls, hugs … I love you's," Cameron said through sobs. "Cheree is on my mind every minute of every day."

As Loera kept his eyes lowered, Osmanhodzic's father said his daughter's murder had left him unable to sleep.

The killer's "justice will come someday," Mike Cameron said. "He will have to meet his maker."

Loera, 34, apologized to Osmanhodzic's friends and family. In a brief statement, he said he was taking full responsibility for his actions. "I will pay in full," he said. "I would give my life … if I could bring her back. I can't do that."

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Jessica Perrin Silvers called the crime horrific and described Osmanhodzic as "an amazing young woman."

"She was meaningless to you, obviously, because this was a vicious killing," the judge told Loera before sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Loera's guilty plea was part of an agreement struck with the district attorney's office, which in turn chose not to seek the death penalty. Outside court, Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Grace said the resolution helped spare Osmanhodzic's family from having to endure a trial and years of appeals. As part of the plea bargain, Loera gave up his right to appeal.

On the evening of the killing, Culvey returned from a grocery store about 7 p.m. to the home he shared with his fiancee and confronted an intruder running into the couple's kitchen. He chased the burglar, who fled into an alley and swung wildly at Culvey with a small object, cutting Culvey's hand.

The attacker managed to flee, and Culvey returned to find the couple's Riverside Drive home in flames. Firefighters discovered Osmanhodzic's body in a bedroom where the blaze appeared to have been set, according to a probation report made public Tuesday. She had been killed before the fire was started, coroner's officials concluded.

During the chase, Culvey saw the intruder drop an iPod Shuffle. DNA tests showed that genetic material found on the music player matched Loera, who was arrested in Mexico in October.

Culvey did not speak in the courtroom or after the hearing. But his father told the court what his son had said after locking eyes with the killer at a previous court hearing.

"He said, 'Dad, all I feel is hurt and compassion for that man,'" Don Culvey said. "As a father, how great is that — that now my son who has been through tragedy enough is not going to live his life in hate and vengeance?"

jack.leonard@latimes.com

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