An Othello woman wiped tears from her eyes Wednesday as she questioned why Prudencio Juan Fragos-Ramirez had to kill both her daughter and her 3-year-old grandson.
Maria de Jesus Cruz Calvillo said she’s been distraught since Maria Guadalupe Cruz-Calvillo, 18, and Luis Lopez-Cruz were shot inside a car in July 2015.
The killer then set fire to the car and left it burning in a north Franklin County ravine with the two bodies inside.
Cruz Calvillo said her daughter and grandson didn’t deserve to die like that.
“It has changed the life of all of us,” she said through a Spanish-speaking interpreter. “(Fragos-Ramirez) didn’t need to hurt anyone. … I ask myself, why did he do that with so much cruelty?”
Fragos-Ramirez, 26, of Connell, received two life sentences for the aggravated first-degree murder convictions.
He was convicted by a Franklin County Superior Court jury in October after a four-week trial.
On Wednesday, Judge Carrie Runge had no discretion but to send Fragos-Ramirez to prison for life without the possibility of early release or parole.
There are only two possible sentences for aggravated murder. Prosecutor Shawn Sant decided in 2015 not to pursue the death penalty against Fragos-Ramirez because of reservations his office had after evaluating the circumstances and the available evidence.
Runge also ordered a five-year mandatory term for each murder count because a gun was used in the killings. Prosecutors had asked that it be noted on the paperwork, just in case an appellate court makes a change to life sentences in the future.
Runge said she appreciated the courage it took for Cruz Calvillo and her only surviving daughter, Damaris Cruz, to come before the court.
The judge acknowledged that their whole world has been turned upside down, and that no sentence she can give will change that or bring back their loved ones.
“Making this more egregious is the heinous nature of this crime. Quite frankly, I don’t think I’ve seen anything so horrible as to how these two suffered in their deaths, and I’ve been around for some time,” said Runge, who was a longtime Benton County deputy prosecutor before becoming a judge in 2004.
Speaking to Fragos-Ramirez, she said, “So I hope you recognize that you have disrupted and changed forever the lives of the ones who came here to talk …,” she added. “The difference for you, while the sentence is life, is that you have life. That is something that their daughter and sister, their grandson and nephew, do not have. They don’t have that privilege.”
Maria Cruz-Calvillo had known Fragos-Ramirez for about four months before her death, but the two had only been dating for a couple of weeks.
The mother and son — who was one week shy of his 4th birthday — ran an errand to Pasco on July 2, 2015, before a neighbor saw them briefly stop by Fragos-Ramirez’s home.
Less than a half hour after the visit, smoke was spotted coming from a nearby ravine. Volunteer firefighters were trying to put out the flames when they saw two bodies inside.
Prosecutors said in the trial that Fragos-Ramirez may have wanted to kill the young mother because he was possessive and obsessed with her.
Defense attorneys Scott Johnson and Deric Orr claimed that Cruz-Calvillo may have been targeted by drug dealers because she had gotten involved in the illegal business.
Fragos-Ramirez did not testify at trial, and he stayed silent on Wednesday.
Johnson said he had advised his client not to speak to preserve his rights on appeal.
Fragos-Ramirez respects the verdicts of the jury, but continues to maintain his innocence, Johnson said. He added that Fragos-Ramirez has expressed his sorrow to the attorneys about the manner in which the mother and son were killed.
Damaris Cruz described her sister as a caring and special person who “always tried to give love to those around her.”
She said regardless of what was going on with her sister, her nephew was not at fault and should have been left alone by Fragos-Ramirez.
“(The toddler) was an innocent creature who did not deserve that,” Cruz told the judge. “That smile of the child was so beautiful. He was a child and he was very sweet. How can a human being take the life of a child?”
Maria de Jesus Cruz Calvillo said she had to move out of her home four months after the murders because everything was a reminder of her daughter and grandson.
Now afraid of darkness and of being alone, she said Fragos-Ramirez also killed her on that day.
“Even if he is in prison his entire life, even with that I am not pleased because he caused a lot of damage to me and my family,” she said. “It used to be my question to tell him why did he do it … but now I leave it in God’s hands.”