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Teen found guilty of murdering mother, stepfather

May 10, 2013|By Jack Leonard

A Compton jury found a 16-year-old girl guilty of murdering her mother and stepfather, capping a two-week trial in which the teen admitted buying party supplies with her mother's corpse decomposing in the back of her Jeep.

Jurors spent a few hours deliberating late Thursday and Friday morning before finding Cynthia Alvarez guilty of first-degree murder in both killings.

Alvarez, who was 15 at the time of the killings but was tried as an adult, denied carrying out the crimes but admitted writing incriminating notes to her boyfriend and handing him a knife that 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 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.

Alvarez testified 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 and later dumped it at a vacant lot in Norwalk, she said.

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

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. 

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.

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

Twitter: @jackfleonard

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