By Tiffany Pelt - email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - After eight years on the run, a jury found Joel Saucedo guilty and sentenced him to life in prison for the brutal murder of Jose Neri.
It took jurors less than 30 minutes to decide the verdict, and about twenty minutes to decide his sentence. "This day has been a long time coming," said Lubbock District Attorney Matt Powell, "We're thankful for the jury's verdict today. We think it was justice".
Saucedo is accused in the beating death of Neri, in November of 2001. Co-workers discovered Neri's body at the Corta Vista Apartments where both men worked.
Investigators became suspicious when they learned Saucedo, the apartment's maintenance worker and a Mexican national, boarded a bus to El Paso just 24 hours before Neri's body was discovered.
Testimony finished up around 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Against his attorney's advise, Saucedo did not take the stand.
During closing arguments Deputy Defense Attorney Sunshine Stanek reminded jurors of the brutal nature of the murder. "The crime scene is reminiscent of a horror movie," said Stanek. Before jurors were released to deliberate, Powell told jurors Saucedo showed no mercy in beating Neri to death. "That is the face of evil," said Powell pointing to Saucedo.
Tearfully Neri's daughter, Gladys Neri, took the stand during the punishment phase. She told jurors her fathers brutal death continues to haunt her. "I have a lot of mixed feelings, but I'm happy with the result. It seemed almost impossible for this day to get here," she said.
Tuesday, retired police detective Bruce Short took the stand to describe the murder scene in Neri's bedroom. Juror's saw graphic pictures of Neri's body. He was bound at the ankles and wrists with neckties, and gagged by another one. Pictures showed Neri lying face down, naked on his bed covered in blood. Other pictures showed large amounts of blood spatter on the bed's headboard and walls.
Short also testified that the victim's blood was found around the bathroom sink where an unopened Champaign bottle was sitting. Short believes Neri was struck with the Champaign bottle and then bound and gagged.
Pictures of Saucedo's apartment after the murder were also presented in court. They show sheets missing from Saucedo's bed and his bedroom closet empty with clothes hangers lying around. Short said it looked as if Saucedo had left in a hurry, but they did find a blue plaid shirt with blood stains on the bed. It tested positive with Neri's blood on it.
Saucedo spent years on the run, until he was arrested in Mexico, last year. He was then expedited back to Lubbock to stand trial.
Saucedo can appeal the jury's decision if he wants to. He is eligible for parole in 30 years.
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