BRADENTON -- Alexfel Sotomayor said he was sorry Friday afternoon as he passed relatives of a 33-year-old woman he was convicted of shooting to death last year.
“Bring her back,” said Courtney Walker’s stepfather Hal Lawlor, as he sat in the front of the courtroom with his wife, Joanne.
It took the jury about two hours to find Sotomayor guilty of second-degree murder.
After hearing family members of Walker’s come forward, Circuit Court Judge Debra Riva sentenced Sotomayor, 25, to life in prison without parole.
Police responded to the Perico Apartments on Perico Island on March 8, 2009, after Sotomayor drove to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office district office and reported there had been a home invasion robbery and that Walker was dead.
Sotomayor didn’t report the incident for an hour, and in the meantime called a friend, dropped off guns at his friend’s residence and took a shower, according to testimony and police reports.
“I had never known the pain of losing a child, “ said Joanne Lawlor, Walker’s mother, who struggled to compose herself and quit shaking as she took the stand. “It’s a big hole in your heart every day.”
Outside Manatee County Judicial Center, Lawlor said of the sentence, “It’s not bringing her back. Certainly we’re pleased with it.”
Police never found the murder weapon, believed to be an AK-47 rifle.
Prosecutors said Sotomayor killed Walker, who he had known for six months, because she was leaving him to go back to her husband and their son.
A woman was on her way to pick up Walker, who called and asked how far away she was.
It was then she heard Walker scream, “Alex” and heard what sounded like a gun chambering a round. The line went dead, according to reports and trial testimony.
Walker’s bags were packed and her body was found on top of them in the closet.
Walker’s father, Martin McClimon, stared at Sotomayor as he recounted how he saw the gruesome scene inside his daughter’s apartment.
“The holes in the wall with skull fragments. I saw your ‘Godfather’ and ‘Scarface’ posters, your pink high tops and little studded belt,” McClimon said. “I’m going to tell you, you’re going to have a hard time in prison.”
Hal Lawlor didn’t mince any words.
“I hope you suffer every day for the rest of your worthless life. ... What gave you the right? Nothing,” he said.
Sotomayor cast his gaze down as family members took the stand one by one.
Just before Riva sentenced him, he said, “I’m sorry for the loss. It was a great loss and I understand what you’re going through right now.”
Charles Lykes, Sotomayor’s defense attorney, said there were inconsistencies between witnesses’ testimony. He said his client loved Walker.
“Mr. Sotomayor was clearly in a panicked and frenzied state. ... That is consistent conduct for someone who has seen someone else do something or commit an act that is ac- cidental or unintentional and not the act of someone who had ill will,” Lykes told the jury during closing arguments. “He loved Mrs. Walker and cared for her deeply.”
He said Walker had recently signed a 13-month lease at the apartment. He said it was possible the bags were from her moving in.
Witnesses at Tequila Beach Sport Grille, where Walker worked as a waitress, said Sotomayor aggressively grabbed her twice at work, including once by the hair earlier the night she was killed.
He eventually let her go when Walker said, “I love you.”
Sotomayor was reportedly angry because she had spent the day with her family and husband.
After she died from gunshot wounds to the head, Sotomayor focused on self-preservation, said Spencer Rasnake, assistant state attorney.
“(Sotomayor) cared for her and loved her. I don’t doubt that,” he said. “The problem is he loved her to death.”