COMPTON -- A teenage girl being tried as an adult for her role in the grisly killings of her mother and stepfather was alternately described Tuesday as a cold-blooded and willing accomplice, and the victim of a hellish and tragic childhood.
Cynthia Alvarez is accused with her boyfriend at the time, Giovanni Gallardo, of killing Alvarez' mother, Gloria Villalta, 58, and stepfather, Jose Lara, 51, in Compton in October 2011. Alvarez was 15 at the time and Gallardo was 16.
Alvarez is charged with two counts of murder including special circumstances that could put her into prison for life without the possibility of parole.
Deputy District Kristin Trutanich described Alvarez as helping to plan and execute the murders, even swinging a black baseball bat in the killing of Lara.
Alvarez was also described the defendant as remorselessly driving around in her stepfather's Jeep and planning a Halloween party while her parents' bodies moldered unidentified and half-buried in lots in Norwalk and North Long Beach.
Trutanich said both defendants willingly went to police and admitted their crimes, but not until long after the crimes had been committed and days after the parents were reported missing.
Defense attorney Carole Telfer told a much different story about a meek, shy girl who suffered physical and learning defects, was molested and raped by her stepfather, forced to care for her mother and kept mostly housebound, dominated by her boyfriend. In the end, she was failed by all the people and agencies in her life who could have made a difference, Telfer said.
As Telfer gave her opening, Alvarez sat still in her chair in Compton Superior Court looking straight ahead, never moving her head to look at her attorney or the jury.
Telfer said Alvarez never agreed to the killings, which were planned and executed she said by Gallardo, and only begrudgingly swung the bat at her father's legs. Telfer told jurors they would hear in Alvarez' own words what happened and the circumstances of her life at the time.
"What I want you to do is keep an open mind," Telfer said. "We're going to let her tell you what happened and why and let you decide what your verdict will be. "
The defendants allegedly killed the mother in the family home after she returned from work on an unknown date between Oct. 11 and 15 in 2011. They then purportedly hid the body and waited for the stepfather, whom they allegedly beat with a baseball bat and stabbed.
When the case was first presented, prosecutors said the motive arose from "ongoing friction between the girl and her parents that included her dating Gallardo. "
Telfer tells a much more complicated and tragic tale.
The defense attorney said Alvarez was born with defects in her heart and a "language processing disorder" that still afflicts her. Alvarez lived with her parents until her father was deported to Honduras. Not long after, Telfer said, Lara moved in and the decline in Alvarez's life began.
According to Telfer, Lara went from molesting Alvarez to anal rape in 2008 when she was 12. Meanwhile, she was forced to care for her mother and clean the family home. Although she reported the rape to police, Alvarez later recanted, Telfer said, at her mother's insistence.
In high school, Alvarez met Gallardo, whom Telfer said, dominated her life.
A possible breaking point may have occurred at Alvarez's quinceanera party where she was physically and verbally abused by her mother, forced to dance with her rapist and where her boyfriend showed up and got drunk, Telfer said.
Telfer said shortly before the killing, Alvarez decided to leave her home for good even broke up with Gallardo.
While Telfer told a compelling story, Trutanich told jurors in her opening that the only two people who would not be able to testify, and provide a different version from that of Alvarez and her attorney were the parents.
"You won't hear from Gloria and Jose, because they were murdered by the defendant and her boyfriend. "
Contact Greg Mellen at 562-714-2093