Cynthia Rivera had given Luis Torres permission to date her teen daughter.
But minutes after Torres was sentenced by a judge to 45 years in prison for fatally stabbing Jocelyn Saucedo, Rivera cursed the 20-year-old man who had betrayed her family’s trust, telling him that she hopes he rots in jail and never gets out.
“I’m never going to forget these words that my daughter said to me, ‘Mom, I now understand that you are the only person in my life that is always going to be with me whenever I have a problem,’ ” Rivera said Friday morning. “And I couldn’t do anything to defend her from this coward.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you don’t deserve to live,” she shouted. “You took away the thing that was most sacred to me. You destroyed my family’s life.”
Torres, a member of the Marine Corps reserve, pleaded guilty in July to murder in connection with the death of Saucedo, who was a junior at Trimble Tech High School. Sentencing by State District Judge George Gallagher, however, had been postponed until a pre-sentencing investigation could be completed.
During Friday morning’s hearing, prosecutors Bill Vassar and and Chris McGregor presented testimony to show that Saucedo’s slaying was a premeditated attack prompted by the teen trying to end her relationship with Torres.
Defense attorney Casey Cole presented only two witnesses —Torres’s parents — who testified that their son was a respectful, studious child who they never imagined would ever hurt or kill anyone and who is remorseful for what he’s done.
Cole asked Gallagher to take into consideration mitigating factors in sentencing Torres, including his lack of criminal history, his cooperation with police and that he stayed on the scene after stabbing Saucedo and give her CPR.
“Both of them had bright, promising futures,” Cole told the judge. “Unfortunately, Luis had a temper and uncontrollable anger on March 7 that would change the lives of everybody that knew both of them forever.”
Vassar argued that Torres took from Saucedo’s parents any chance they had to see her graduate from high school and college, get her first job, and one day get married and have children.
“Every single holiday that goes by, there will be an empty chair where she sat. He has to pay for that,” Vassar said.
Torres must serve half of his 45-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.
‘He’s going to kill me!’
Rivera testified that her daughter had confided in her a week before her death that she wanted to break things off with Torres because their relationship wasn’t going well and they were fighting all the time.
“Speak to him and give each other some time,” Cynthia Rivera had suggested to her daughter. “She told me he doesn’t want to and he gets very aggressive when I tell him.”
Rivera said she told her daughter that maybe she and Saucedo’s father could help by talking to Torres.
“She said, ‘No, I’m going to take care of this,’ ” Rivera recalled.
On the morning of March 7, Saucedo brought up breaking up again as Torres drove her to school and later in text messages, homicide Detective Matt Barron testified.
Torres responded, Barron said, by going to Academy Sporting Goods that afternoon and buying a hunting knife.
He then picked Saucedo up at school at 3:10 p.m.
Five minutes later, Elliott Robinson called 911 after he saw a pickup — its passenger door open — cross in front of his vehicle with a young woman inside screaming, “He’s going to kill me!”
Robinson testified Friday that the woman had her feet against the door, trying to keep it open, while the driver appeared to be holding her by the upper body and swerving the pickup to try to get the door to close.
He followed the pickup for a time, giving dispatchers a description and part of its license plate number.
Barron said officers responded to the area and searched for the pickup but could not locate it.
At 4:49 p.m. — one hour and 34 minutes after Robinson’s call — another 911 call came in, this time from Torres.
“I killed someone,” he told dispatchers.
‘She’s not breathing’
In the 911 call, played in court Friday, Torres spoke calmly and politely to a police dispatcher, answering questions “Yes, ma’am” as he informed her that he had stabbed a girl with a hunting knife and that both were inside his 2003 Chevy Silverado at the intersection of Bryan Avenue and East Cantey Street.
“She’s dead,” he tells the dispatcher. “She’s not breathing.”
He was then transferred to a MedStar dispatcher, who told him to move the girl flat on her back on the ground and gave him instructions on how to do CPR. Police sirens could be heard in the background towards the end of the call.
As the call was played, Torres hung his head and cried.
Saucedo was rushed to John Peter Smith Hospital to undergo surgery, where she was pronounced dead.
At police headquarters that evening, Torres agreed to speak with Barron and Detective Tom O’Brien.
Barron testified that Torres was “strangely emotionless” during the hour to hour-and-a-half interview, though did on occasion smile. He initially indicated that the stabbing was a sudden act during an argument, Barron testified.
“He says that they were driving. During the course of this argument, he had a knife in his hand the whole time. The next thing he knows, he just reaches over and puts his hand in her stomach,” Barron testified.
But when detectives get Torres to trace his actions earlier that day, Barron said it became apparent “this was a very calculated and planned event.”
Torres admitted to being angry that Saucedo no longer wanted to be with him and buying the knife that afternoon.
“The whole time I was looking at the knives, I was pretty mad,” Torres told the investigators in a short excerpt of the interview played in court Friday. “Bad thoughts were going through my mind.”
Torres told the detectives that after picking Saucedo up from school, the two drove around about an hour before he stabbed her.
Barron said Torres did not seem remorseful during the interview, though did mention he’d told Saucedo “I’m sorry” after plunging the knife about five inches into her stomach.
During cross examination, Cole pointed out that Torres called 911 and attempted CPR to try to save the teen.
But Barron disagreed, pointing out that in his interview with detectives, Torres described laying Saucedo down in the seat after the stabbing.
“She tells him, ‘I’m getting hot.’ He tries to help her take her sweater off,” Barron said.
Torres told investigators that he then sat on the ground outside the truck, trying to think what he should do next.
“I don’t believe he was trying to save her until someone directed him to save her,” Barron testified.
‘She was a good girl’
Rivera testified that her daughter was an “A” student who was already making plans to attend college in Florida so she could one day open up her own beauty salon and do the hair of famous people.
“She was a good girl, a. very good student with a lot of will to get ahead in this country,” Rivera said.
When Saucedo did not come home from school March 7, Rivera testified she tried desperately to reach her daughter.
She text messaged her, called her 52 times, and even called and went to Torres’s house but could find neither and called police to report her daughter missing.
Hours later, homicide detectives were at her family’s door, informing them that their Saucedo might be dead and asking them to go to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office to identify her.
“I started crying and praying that it wouldn’t be my daughter that was there,” Rivera said.
Rivera said she and her husband were not allowed to see their daughter’s body, but rather shown a picture.
“When they gave me her things, her earrings and her bracelet, I knew it was my little girl,” Rivera cried.
After delivering her victim impact statement Friday, Rivera’s wails filled the courtroom as she was rushed by family members out of the courtroom, where she collapsed just outside the door. Bailiffs then helped lift the inconsolable mother into a chair
Her cries still audible inside the courtroom, Torres’s father, Erasmo Torres Lopez, asked if he might be able to address the courtroom as well.
Taking the stand, Torres Lopez said he wanted ask for forgiveness for what his son did and for himself. He said he did not know how to approach the grieving family before but wanted them to know that his family cared for, and still cares, for Saucedo.
“I always wanted to tell you that I would give my life so that this would have never happened to these two young people with big dreams and great futures,” he said.