The young son of a Pasco murder victim won't have to worry about his father showing up at his home again like he did in May 2010 when the boy's mother was killed.
Gregorio Luna Luna will spend the rest of his life in prison after a Franklin County jury found him guilty of aggravated first-degree murder.
Jurors returned to Franklin County Superior Court on Tuesday to decide if there were aggravating circumstances connected to the murder.
They deliberated for just90 minutes Monday before convicting Luna Luna of first-degree murder. It took about half that time for them to return the special verdict in favor of the aggravating factors.
"We analyzed everything thoroughly," one juror told the Herald. "The letter ... was really showing a lot of how Mr. Luna Luna was acting and what his objective was with the threats. ... It wasn't too difficult to get through the deliberations. ... I'm happy with our decision."
Griselda Ocampo Meza, 21, was killed May 24, 2010, after Luna Luna barged into her Pasco home and attacked her with a knife. She died from a stab wound to her heart.
Luna Luna had sent threatening letters vowing to kill her about a month earlier, and during the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Luna Luna engaged in a pattern of domestic abuse against Ocampo Meza.
The couple's son, Allen, now 8, was home at the time and saw his father attack his mother before her new boyfriend rushed the boy out of the apartment.
Former Franklin County Prosecutor Steve Lowe told the Herald he was pleased with the verdict and that Allen won't have to deal with Luna Luna again after seeing what happened.
Special Prosecutor Andy Miller saidAllen is in Mexico with his maternalgrandparents and uncle. Miller said Allen's uncle also "was very happy" to hear Luna Luna will be locked up for life.
"This will allow Allen to grow up without having to look over his shoulder," Miller said.
Prosecutors weren't seeking the death penalty in the case, so the only sentence Judge Robert Swisher can hand down is life without the possibility of release. Luna Luna is expected to be sentenced next month.
"This is a sentence where there is absolutely no discretion," Miller said.
Miller is the Benton County prosecutor. He and his deputy prosecutor, Anita Petra, handled the case because of a conflict with the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office. Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant used to be Luna Luna's defense attorney.
Lowe stayed on the case for four months after he left office, then Miller and Petra took over.
"I want to thank Andy and Anita for a great job," Lowe said, adding that he wasn't surprised at the quick verdict by jurors. "I think the investigation was strong and the case was very strong. Obviously it was presented very well by two veteran trial lawyers."
Defense attorneys Shelley Ajax and Karla Kane declined Tuesday to talk about the case.
One juror, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed that the prosecutors presented a really good case, and he said his fellow jurors just objectively looked at the evidence and testimony to reach their decision.
"The evidence was there. ... The neighbors and friends who were around her and the folks that were there, they were credible," he said.
The juror also said that he doesn't think Luna Luna is sorry for what he did.
"He was unemotional virtually through most of the trial and through the verdict," the juror said. "I guess, to me, the guy was unemotional about what he did, and he still seems unremorseful."
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org