The tension was thick inside a Benton County courtroom Monday as Francisco Resendez Miranda prepared to speak before being sentenced to life in prison for the execution-style killings of three Pasco people.
The Umatilla man, speaking through an interpreter, was critical of the evidence prosecutors presented at trial and the witnesses who testified against him.
During his brief statement, Resendez Miranda, 24, didn’t admit to the grisly slayings or apologize to the victims’ family members who were seated nearby.
Instead, he told the court the mandatory life sentence without parole for his November convictions on three counts of aggravated first-degree murder have ripped him from his children and family.
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“I know that everybody thinks I am a monster,” he said. “But I would have liked for you to know me otherwise.”
Shortly after Resendez Miranda was done speaking, Judge Bruce Spanner imposed the life sentence for the 2014 shooting deaths of David Perez-Saucedo, 22, Victoria Torres, 19, and Abigail Torres-Renteria, 23, who was nearly nine months pregnant.
Resendez Miranda’s attorneys, Shane Silverthorn and John Chambers, plan to appeal.
Spanner had some harsh words for Resendez Miranda before he was led from the courtroom.
“The Legislature has decided that you should never walk freely in our community again. The Legislature has also decided that I should not have any discretion but to impose a sentence of life without the possibility of parole,” Spanner said. “And I have to tell you, I agree with the Legislature on both counts.”
Prosecutor Andy Miller told the Herald it didn’t come as a shock that Resendez Miranda decided not to apologize to the victims’ families because he has continually denied his role in the killings.
“I don’t think there’s anything great a defendant can say, but I was disappointed by what he said,” Miller said. “I think it made it harder on (the victims’ families) to listen to him.”
Representatives from all the families were at the hearing Monday. Miller told the court that it was too emotional for family members to speak, so an official read two letters on their behalf.
The stepmother of Torres-Renteria wrote about the victim’s 8-year-old son recently praying to God to bring his mother back.
“I didn’t have an answer for that. It broke my heart to hear him say that,” wrote Lupe Hernandez in the letter. “The only thing I have to say myself is may God forgive you because I will never forgive you.”
Resendez Miranda was arrested shortly after the victims’ bodies were found Aug. 9 in a rural Benton County cornfield off Nine Canyon Road.
Perez-Saucedo and Resendez Miranda knew each other through work at Wyckoff Farms. Resendez Miranda allegedly sold methamphetamine to Perez-Saucedo, according to testimony.
The victims had traveled to Umatilla, where Resendez Miranda lived, hours before they were killed. Testimony at trial and court documents revealed there was a break-in at Resendez Miranda’s apartment, which was a motive for the murders.
Perez-Saucedo’s sport utility vehicle was spotted leaving the scene of the break-in. Resendez Miranda and a crew of family and friends chased the SUV to a nearby gas station, where a confrontation took place.
The victims were then taken back to Resendez Miranda’s apartment, testimony and police reports confirmed, and they were found dead hours later.
Resendez Miranda reportedly admitted to more than one person that he was involved in the killings, according to testimony. His shoe print was found at the murder scene and blood from one of the victims was found on his clothes. Surveillance video also showed him with the victims at the gas station.
Police are still searching for Resendez Miranda’s father and two brothers in connection with the case. Authorities believe Fidel Miranda-Huitron, Eduardo Miranda-Resendez and Fernando De Jesus Miranda-Resendez fled to Mexico.
Esteban Torres, the grandfather of victim Victoria Torres, wrote in his letter that justice will be served when all the suspects are brought into custody.
“Today there is a heavy burden in my heart because she is gone and part of justice is being done,” the letter said. “I sincerely hope that it won’t be too long before the others will follow (Resendez Miranda).”