last updated: June 21, 2008 09:47:26 AM
Jose Ulisses Duran - Stanislaus County Sheriff - Unknown
Jose Ulisses Duran, who was convicted in 2006 of murdering his girlfriend's 11-year-old sister, was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison.
"Get him out of my sight," Judge Loretta Murphy Begen told bailiffs after sentencing Duran, 24, of Gustine. Bailiffs escorted out of the room a bespectacled Duran who had sat quietly with his hands cuffed in front of him.
Duran must serve 25 years before he can be considered for parole and will then have to explain to the board what he has done with his life since strangling sixth-grader Doris Castro of Newman while sitting in his car. In November 2006, he was convicted of choking Doris and then strapping a belt around her unconscious body and lowering her into a canal near Newman on Dec. 1, 2004.
Though convicted in 2006, Duran's sentencing was delayed while the defense argued for a new trial. The arguments were complicated because one of the investigators involved in the case was charged with rape and misappropriation of funds in an unrelated incident.
Throughout the two-month trial in 2006, prosecutors argued Duran killed Doris to keep her from telling her family about a kiss they shared three weeks before, because that news would end his relationship with Cristal Castro, Doris' older sister, who was 16 at the time and pregnant with Duran's child.
Duran was very close to the Castros, who say they treated him like family.
"We helped him however we could, and this is what he did to us," Doris' mother, Gabriela Castro, said between sobs before Duran was sentenced. "I'm asking today that he not be let out anymore. For the way he made my daughter suffer, he should pay day after day for her suffering and ours."
Angry at defense tactic
Gabriela Castro said she was disgusted with defense attorneys who tried deflecting blame from Duran.
You tried "to incriminate my daughter when the criminal sits right next to you," she said, her voice quavering as she stood as far from Duran as she could, positioning herself to keep him out of her view.
Two members of the Castro family had planned to speak, but the other bowed out after Gabriela Castro stood red-faced, letting flow the tears and carefully chosen words she hoped would offer Duran and others a taste of the bitterness and sorrow that have consumed her and her family for four years.
Family and other supporters sat behind her, filling every seat on the prosecution's side of the room and spilling over onto the defense's side.
Deputy Public Defender Graylin Bryant expressed sorrow to Gabriela Castro for her daughter's death.
"We offer our deepest condolences," he said.
Later, outside the courtroom, a group of Castro women encircled Gabriela Castro, holding her as she sobbed.
Deputy District Attorney Jared Carrillo, who argued against defense attorneys' attempts to win a new trial, stood off to the side, wiping away his own tears.
Bryant tried Friday to persuade the judge to order a new probation report. He said the one provided is "fatally flawed" by suggesting Duran is not eligible for probation though he had no criminal record.
Begen said she wouldn't entertain the possibility of granting Duran probation, calling the crime "so heinous" and the victim "so vulnerable."
"I've presided over many trials," Begen said, "none have disturbed me more profoundly."
The judge called Duran callous and asked what kind of darkness in his heart could compel him to murder his girlfriend's younger sister.
"Our society cannot and will not accept the heinous crime and mortal sin you have committed against Doris Castro," she said.
Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2382.
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