DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. - A judge sentenced 35-year-old Emilio Avalos to death for the murder of Marine Corporal Henry Lozano in 2001. The judge also sentenced Avalos to life in prison without parole for the 1994 murder of 17-year-old Jahi Collins. It marks the end of a long process for the victims' families. "I no longer have to look at him, think of him or be near him again," said Donna Lozano, Henry Lozano's mother.
While the case is closed, the families say it provides relief, but does not change their loss. "There's really no real closure, but at least I don't have to think about this everyday," said Glenda Collins, Jahi Collins' mother. "I can just think about Jahi."
Mrs. Lozano and Mrs. Collins joined other family, police officers, city council members, and lawyers to mark the end of an emotional case. "Here we have a gang member that finally got his due justice and it's a great thing for this city," said Commander Ken Peary from the Desert Hot Springs police department.
"The biggest relief I feel is that this man cannot do this to another family, cannot devastate another family the way that he devastated this family," said Glenda Collins.
The news conference was held in a community center named after Henry Lozano. Appropriate, because prosecutors have said the investigation of his death led to Operation Falling Sun, the gang sweep in 2009 that led to the arrest of more than 150 gang members.
"It gives me the sense that my son was a hero even while not here, he is here," said Mrs. Lozano.