Due to a reporting error, a story about a Modesto man sentenced in the 2002 killing of a Livermore woman contained an incorrect quote. The quote should have been: "I close my eyes and I can still picture it. I can still hear our screams."
OAKLAND -- For eight years, Cecilia Garcia's family passed out fliers and held candlelight vigils praying police would solve the mystery of how the 24-year-old single Livermore mom came to be strangled and drowned in her own shower.
They spent another four years anxiously waiting for what happened Friday: Former family friend Bryan Davis was sentenced by Judge Vernon Nakahara to 15 years to life in prison for the killing.
"It's been 12½ ¿long years but we never gave up hope that we would be here today, as a family getting justice for her," said Garcia's cousin Regina Cortez.
Davis, a 38-year-old Modesto resident who also goes by Bryan Vulgamore, was convicted by jury of second-degree murder for killing Garcia in her home on Jan. 8, 2002. Davis made no statement at Friday's sentencing, but his defense attorney argued at trial that Davis was innocent and his alleged confession to a friend that he was responsible was a lie.
Davis' mother, who was arrested and released from jail after an outburst about her son's innocence at the verdict reading in June, and his other supporters were absent Friday as nearly 30 members of Garcia's family sat in the courtroom.
Garcia's sister, Monica Leonis, said she is still haunted by the images of her and her father finding Garcia dead in the running shower. Prosecutor Mark Melton told jurors that Davis, high on a methamphetamine bender, put Garcia in the shower to wash his DNA from her after strangling her into unconsciousness during an attempted sexual assault.
"I close my eyes and I can still picture it. I can still hear our screams," Leonis said.
Alicia Garcia-Cortez, now 20, said that it's been 12 years of sadness for her and that she thinks of her "beautiful, big-hearted and caring" mother every day.
"I lost a piece of myself. I lost a piece of my heart," she told the judge. "I would give anything to hear her voice just for a second."
Melton said it is hard to wrestle with the fact that Davis will be eligible for parole in 11 years, fewer than what passed between the killing and his conviction while in the meantime he was free for eight years. He said he hopes a parole board recognizes how "ruthless" Davis acted.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.