ST. CHARLES (STMW) — Ricky Villalpando will likely never know why his kid sister was murdered, but on Thursday, he finally learned who did it.
Juan Garnica, 20, of Aurora, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for beating 18-year-old Abigail Villalpando of Aurora to death.
The two had been friends since junior high school, Ricky said, but on Jan. 31, 2013, something changed.
Prosecutors said that Garnica bludgeoned Abigail Villalpando with a hammer, and set her body on fire.
In court on Thursday, where Garnica accepted his plea agreement, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon outlined the evidence he believed prosecutors could prove, had the case gone to trial.
Garnica and Villalpando were hanging out at an Aurora home when Garnica asked her to look at a dead turtle inside an aquarium. He then pulled a hammer from his back pocket and struck her twice on the head, McMahon said.
When she fell, Garnica continued to beat her, and when he was done, he commissioned two other men, Enrique Prado, 20, and Jose Becerra, 22, to help stuff the body into a stolen barrel, which was then burned, he said.
Villalpando’s remains were found days later in a Montgomery field.
On Thursday morning, as they listened to the details of the crime yet again, Villalpando’s family wept.
Her mother, Maribel Hernandez, began shaking as the orange-clad 20-year-old entered the courtroom.
Garnica remained silent, but shook his head several times as McMahon laid out the evidence against him.
“Are you disagreeing with the facts? Is that how the court should interpret that?” Judge John Barsanti asked Garnica after noticing the gesture.
Garnica’s attorney told the judge her client was just reacting to the statement.
Outside of his head shaking, Garncia reacted little to what was happening around him.
The only time he spoke was to answer Barsanti’s “yes, no” questions about the proceedings.
For Ricky Villalpando, it didn’t feel like closure. He still doesn’t know why Garnica would want to hurt Abigail. McMahon said prosecutors did not have a clear motive, either.
“Maybe it’s something we’ll die not knowing,” Ricky said outside the courtroom Thursday.
He said he could have had held on a bit longer for a trial. He hoped that through the evidence, his sister would have a voice.
“I feel like we wanted to hear my sister’s side of the story. We wanted to know why they did this to her,” he said. “She deserved a fair trial, and at this point, she’s not going to get it.”
Garnica will serve 100 percent of his 30-year sentence, and will be released from prison when he is 49. He faced between 20 and 60 years.
“He’s going to get out and still have a life to live,” Ricky said.
Prado and Becerra were charged with concealing a homicide. Prado was also charged with arson for allegedly setting Villalpando’s car on fire under the High Street bridge following her disappearance.
Each man posted bond and was released in November 2013.
Ricky said he feels some sense of justice as far Garnica’s sentence is concerned, but not completely.
“I’ll never be happy (with his sentence). I wouldn’t even be happy with 60 years,” he said. “But, it is what it is …. even if he served a trillion years, it wouldn’t be enough.”
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)